Posts Tagged ‘Employers’

T.H. Green’s Criticism of Utilitarian Laissez-Faire Individualism

December 24, 2018

T.H. Green was a 19th century British philosopher, who with others provided the philosophical justification for the change in Liberal politics away from complete laissez-faire economics to active state intervention. A week or so ago I put up another passage from D.G. Ritchie, another Liberal philosopher, who similarly argued for greater state intervention. Ritchie considered that the state was entitled to purchase and manage private enterprises on behalf of society, which Green totally rejected. However, Green was in favour of passing legislation to improve conditions for working people, and attacked the Utilitarians for their stance that Liberals such try to repeal laws in order to expand individual freedom. He believed the real reasons to objecting for laws affecting religious observances were that they interfered with the basis of morality in religion, and similarly believed that the real objection to the erection of the workhouses was that they took away the need for parental foresight, children’s respect for their parents and neighbourly kindness. He criticized the Utilitarians for demanding the removal of this laws on the grounds of pure individualism. Green wrote

Laws of this kind have often been objected to on the strength of a one-sided view of the function of laws; the view, viz. that their only business is to prevent interference with the liberty of the individual. And this view has gained undue favour on account of the real reforms to which it has led. The laws which it has helped to get rid of were really mischievous, but mischievous for further reasons than those conceived of by the supporters of this theory. Having done its work, the theory now tends to beco0me obstructive, because in fact advancing civilization brings with it more and more interference with the liberty of the individual to do as he likes, and this theory affords a reason for resisting all positive reforms, all reforms which involve an action of the state in the way of promoting conditions favourable to moral life. It is one thing to say that the state in promoting these conditions must take care not to defeat its true end by narrowing the region within which the spontaneity and disinterestness of true morality can have play; another thing to say that it has no moral end to serve at all, and that it goes beyond its province when it seeks to do more than save the individual from violent interference from other individuals. The true ground of objection to ‘paternal government’ is not that it violates the ‘laissez-faire’ principle and conceives that its office is to make people good, to promote morality, but that it rests on a misconception of morality. The real function of government being to maintain conditions of life in which morality shall be possible, and ‘paternal government’ does its best to make it impossible by narrowing the room for the self-imposition of duties and the play of disinterested motives.

T.H.Green, Political Obligations, cited in Lane W. Lancaster, Masters of Political Thought vol. 3, Hegel to Dewey (London: George Harrap & Co. Ltd 1959) 212.

Lancaster comments on this passage on the following page, stating

Green here approves the central idea of laissez-faire since he believes that the individual should be allowed to make his own choices, and he concedes that early liberal legislation had been on the whole directed to that end. He does not believe, however, that the general good of society could be served in the altered conditions of English life by leaving people alone. This is the case, he thinks, because real freedom implies a choice of actions, and actual choices may not exist when, for example, the alternative to terms set by landlord or employer is destitution or dispossession. His criticism amounts to the charge that laissez-faire is only the defence of class interests, and as such ignores the general welfare. (p. 213).

It’s a good point. Clearly Green is far from promoting that the state should run the economy, but, like the passage I put up by Ritchie, it’s an effective demolition of some of the arguments behind Libertarianism. This is sometimes defined as ‘Classical Liberalism’, and is the doctrine that the state should interfere as little as possible. But as Green and Ritchie pointed out, that was no longer possible due to the changed circumstances of the 19th century. Green is also right when he makes the point the choice between that offered by a landlord or employer and being thrown out of work or on the street is absolutely no choice at all, and that in this instance laissez-faire individualism is simply a defence of class interests. This is very much the case. Libertarianism and later anarcho-capitalism was formulated by a group of big businessmen, who objected to F.D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The members of this group include the Koch brothers, the multi-millionaire heads of the American oil industry. It became one of the ideological strands in the Republican party after Reagan’s victory in 1980, and also in Thatcherism, such as the Tories idea that instead of using the state police, householders could instead employ private security firms.

Green and Ritchie together show that the Classical Liberalism to which Libertarianism harks back was refuted long ago, and that Libertarianism itself is similarly a philosophy that has been utterly demolished both in theory and in practice.

The Nazi Labour Front and Tory Employment Policy

December 4, 2018

I found this very interesting passage in Robert A. Brady’s The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937). It’s about the Labour Front, or Deutschearbeitsfront to give it its German name.

This was the Nazi organization which was set up to replace the trade unions, which the Nazis declared were ‘Marxist’ and banned. This provided some recreational services to German workers through the Strength Through Joy movement and a minimum of restraint on employers. Instead of the trade union committee, there was a Council of Trustees, elected by the workers, but selected by the employer, whose job was to explain and promote the boss’ decisions, and give him any complaints the workers had.

But German employer-worker relations were strictly hierarchical, and followed the Nazi Fuhrerprinzip or ‘Leader Principle’. Just as Adolf Hitler was the Fuhrer of the German people, so the employer was the Fuhrer of his workforce. German employment law forbade the sacking of workers, who had been employed for over year without giving them due notice. And mass discharges in plants over a certain size had to be preceded by giving the Council of Trustees due written notice.

But the workers were also bound to their employers, and could not leave them if they worked on farms, while those that were employed in industry would not receive unemployment benefit for six weeks if they left their previous job without proper cause. Brady writes

Here as elsewhere the whole machinery redounds primarily to the advantage of the employer. Every effort is made to cut down labour turnover. In late chapters various methods for achieving this effect will be discussed. But the Labour Front has not been content with programmes for attaching workers to a given plot ground,, and hence to a particular employer, nor with an absolute prohibition against strikes of all kinds. These it heartily endorses, but it goes even further.

It goes so far, for example, as to declare workers who leave agricultural employment during the crop season saboteurs and unworthy of German citizenship. It warns all that “to gather well and surely the harvest is your foremost and weightiest task. Whoever neglects this duty and leaves his position with the farmer without due warning in order to into industry is a saboteur, and must be excluded from the community of the German people…” There are other and more direct punitive measures: “A labourer who gives up his work place without important or justified grounds or who has lost his position through a situation which justified his immediate discharge can receive as a rule no unemployment subsidy for six weeks…” Simultaneously, he can be “locked out” from his place of last, and all other employment until such time as he can submit proof of the reasons for losing the first job. (pp. 130-, my emphasis).

So far, workers aren’t being stopped from finding another job if they leave their previous employment, and farm labourers who give up their jobs aren’t being denounced as saboteurs. But it is Tory policy not to give unemployed workers unemployment benefit for a certain number of weeks. I can remember when it was brought in under John Major. You weren’t given unemployment benefit for a set period if you had made yourself ‘voluntarily unemployed’. And this policy has been extended to any unemployed individual, regardless of whether they left their job voluntarily or not, through the delays Cameron and May have built into the benefits system, and particularly with the problems accompanying the rollout of Universal Credit. So far, however, the Tories haven’t also followed the Nazi policy sending the ‘workshy’ – arbeitscheu – to the concentration camps. But perhaps its only a matter of time.

Tony Greenstein on his blog showed how completely false the accusations of anti-Semitism made against Corbyn’s supporters in the Labour party were by discussing the case of one man, who was so accused because he put up a photoshopped picture of a Jobcentre sign saying ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’. This was the Nazi slogan on the entrance to Auschwitz, ‘Work Makes You Free’. But there’s nothing anti-Semitic in the photo. It’s a comment on the government’s policy towards the unemployed. Particularly as Ian Duncan Smith, or some other Tory minister with a similar hatred for the proles, had actually written a newspaper column with a paragraph stating that ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ was quite right. Someone else spotted the paragraph, and had it removed from the website on which it was posted, before they thought too many had seen it. But they had, and many had taken screenshots.

It is no exaggeration in this respect to say that the Tories are following Nazi policy towards the unemployed. And this is likely to get even worse the longer they’re in power. And if they carry on as they are, eventually the Tory conferences will start with May goose-stepping on to the stage to cries of ‘Sieg Heil!’ and ‘Duce, Duce!’

Fascism Based on the Values of Business and the Military

November 20, 2018

On Saturday I put up a number of extracts from Robert A. Brady’s The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937) to show that, contrary to what the Republicans in America and the Tories in this country would have us believe Nazism was firmly capitalist, not socialist. Brady argued that Nazism was, economically, monopoly capitalism with businessmen put in charge of the economy, very much like the corporatist capitalism introduced by the Tories, the Republicans and Blair’s New Labour.

Brady also argued that the autocratic social structure of Fascism was based very much on the hierarchical structure of business and the armed forces, including the businessmen’s contempt for the low paid. He wrote

With respect first to the condition, it has been pointed out in the first chapter of this study, and illustrated in subsequent chapters, that the German business community did not depart one iota from tried and true “business principles” when they underwrote the Nazi programme. Every business practices towards its own staff the “leader” and the “authority” principles, and it undeviatingly aspires towards the “total” principle. That is to say, all officers and staff members are appointed and removed from on top entirely at the discretion of management (leader principle), and authority is from the top down, responsibility from the bottom up (authority principle). And every employer attempts to control so far as humanly possible the attitudes, beliefs, and points of view (weltanschauung) of his employees and every section of the public with which he comes in contact (total principle).

Every business establishment is, in other words, completely autocratic and completely undemocratic in structure, ideology, and procedure. It is, by the same token, completely intolerant of all opposition within or without, or of any criticism which does not redound to the advantage of the profit-making possibilities of the enterprise. The enterprise may be compelled, it is true, to make important concessions on all points, but it should not be forgotten that these are concessions, not departures from principle.

Furthermore, every employer regards the gradation of pay and authority amongst the staff over which he presides as being essentially just and sound, because each indicates the relative ability he or she possesses by the position occupied. The criteria are not productive, but acquisitive. Each is paid according to his ability to acquire or “get ahead”, not according to his contribution to output. If the two – contribution to output and contribution to acquisition – happen to go together, well and good. If they do not, it matters little, since their juxtaposition is a matter of accident, not of interdependence.

The condition of society in which the business men would rule would be that one which is natural to them. It would, as a matter of course, be centralized, autocratic, and intolerant, and it would be so constructed that each would get exactly what he deserves for the simple reason that according to the rules he deserves whatever he can get. It is the well accepted business view that most, if not all of the unemployed are shiftless, worthless, irresponsible, and undisciplined. it is taken as axiomatic that the lowest wage-earner receives all that “is coming to him,” since if he could get more by any means which does not disturb business routine it is obvious that he would. His failure is the measure of his incompetence, and with that all has been said about it that may be mentioned by gentlemen of good breeding and respectable station!

This condition is one that would normally appeal to the conventional army officer. The military is the only other completely undemocratic, completely autocratic, and completely intolerant – completely “leader”, “authoritarian”, and “totalitarian” – organization in modern society. Provided due allowance is made for recognition of the military hierarchies of “authority” and “duty” in the fascist state, it can be fitted into the pattern of the businessman’s ultima thule without a single tonal jar. The moods, attitudes, points of view, values, and appraisals of human worth are fundamentally the same.

It is for this reason that it seems so easy for the military and business hierarchies to get together as they have in Italy, Germany, Portugal, Hungary, and many other places. But the significance of this natural alliance is that the military holds the key to political power. Once the alliance takes place, fascism is here unless the elements arrayed against it-as in Spain-possess superior force. It does not follow that the army rank and file will follow their officers any more than it does that labourers will follow their employers. But, if they do, fascism is practically certain to gain the ascendancy. (pp. 335-7).

The shared values of business, the military and Fascism helps explain why the British stock exchange applauded at the news of the Fascist revolt in Spain, at least according to Orwell, and why sections of Conservative party have always overlapped with the Fascist fringe, such as the National Front and the BNP. And why the Libertarians, like the Freedom Association, formerly the National Association for Freedom, or NAAF – make your own jokes up – backed murderous Fascist regimes in South and Central America. Of course, Milton Friedman, the founder of Monetarism, Thatcher’s favourite economic theory, and the Chicago School supported right-wing dictators like General Pinochet because they reasoned that it would only be through a Fascist coup that their programme of completely destroying the welfare state and state economic interference could be implemented.

And it exactly explains the Conservative and New Labour hatred of low wage workers and the unemployed, and why Thatcher was so keen on supporting the police and military against strikers. And it’s also a very strong argument for introducing some measure of industrial democracy – workers’ control – in order to make this country truly democratic.

And this is quite apart from the imperialism that is at the heart of Fascism – the wars fought for the benefit of American and western multinationals, from the coups in Latin America to the latest, so-called humanitarian interventions in the Middle East.

We desperately need a programme like Corbyn’s, which offers both industrial democracy, and a better deal for the unemployed and those in work in Britain and an end to wars abroad. Because without it, as we’ve seen, is the road to real Fascism, as shown in the militantly racist and anti-Semitic parties gaining strength in Europe.

The Capitalist Nature of Nazism

November 17, 2018

Every now and then a Conservative defender of capitalism tries to argue that Nazism and Fascism were forms of Socialism. Jonah Goldberg tried it a few years ago in his book, Liberal Fascism, a Tory MP stood up in the European parliament a couple of weeks ago and made the same accusation, though he had to take it back and apologise. And Private Eye in recent weeks have also published a couple of letters from readers making the same claims.

Fascism did have Socialistic elements. Mussolini was originally a radical Socialist, who broke with the rest of the Italian Socialist movement in supporting Italy joining the First World War. The Fascist party was originally extremely left-wing in its programme of 1919. Its corporativism was not only based on the ideas of the right-wing Italian Nationalists, but also from part of the syndicalist movement, which moved away from demanding absolute workers’ control to advocating an industrial structure which included both capitalists and workers in a series of corporations set up to govern each industry, or sector of the economy. The Nazis also included socialist elements in their 1922 programme, such as the nationalization of firms and profit-sharing in industry, as well as the break-up of the department stores.

However, the Fascists and Nazis came to power through their alliance with business and the aristocracy. Both the Italian Fascists and Nazis in Germany were hostile to socialism, communism and workers’ trade unions. In Italy, they also allied with the Vatican to destroy the Populists, a party set up to represent Italian Roman Catholics against persecution by the Liberal state, which was distrusted by the Papacy because they considered it too radical. Once in power, the socialist elements of these parties’ programmes was soon jettisoned. Hitler declared that he had no intention of nationalizing businesses, unless they were badly run. He had the SA massacred in the Night of the Long Knives because this part of the Nazi party did take the socialist elements of party programme seriously. The word ‘socialist’ had only been included in the name of the Nazi party – the National Socialist German Workers’ Party – against bitter opposition by some of its founders. Hitler stated that he did so in order to steal potential recruits from the real left-wing parties. Furthermore, the Nationalist intellectuals who first advocated a right-wing ‘socialist’ order in the 1920s stated that they did not refer to the nationalization of industry, but to the socialization of people to serve the state. And just before the Nazi seizure of power, Hitler made a speech to German industry stating that Nazism would protect private industry.

Robert A. Brady, an associate professor of economics at the University of California, made the capitalist nature of the Nazi regime very clear in his The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937). The book is a thorough description of German society under the Nazis – its ideology, social structure, the coordination of science, industry and agriculture, the instruments of power and the various party organisations used to recruit and control the masses. Brady states

The regime which the Nazis proceeded to establish is fairly described, by the very nature of the major interest which sponsored it, as a dictatorship of monopoly capitalism. Its “fascism” is that of business enterprise organized on a monopoly basis, and in full command of all the military, police, legal and propaganda power of the state. (p. 33, emphasis in the original). He lays out the essential capitalist nature of the Nazi state as follows on pages 41-2.

1. Productive Property and natural resources are to be privately owned; freedom of contract is guaranteed (excepting to “aliens” and the peasants under the Inheritance laws).
2. Individual initiative, the business entrepreneur, conduct of business for profit (“reward for services performed”), and ownership (individual or stockholder) control are basic.
3. Business men are to be free, if “responsible” (“self-government in business”), to fix by agreement prices, production totals and quotas, marketing areas, and the conditions and terms of purchase and sale.
4. Stock and commodity exchanges, commission houses, brokers, and speculative transactions are inevitable and necessary for the conduct of “organic business.” (Business as usual.)
5. Heavy industries, particularly those catering to the military and foreign trade, are encouraged; large-scale units, unless “uneconomical” are to be kept intact; co-operatives are to be broken up.
6. The social class structure of society is sanctified, strengthened, made semi-hereditary, and hardened into caste lines
(Standestaat, class state); the “Middle Class” are the Myrmidons of the Elite (Fuhrerstaat, leader state) and, as such, the backbone of the state.
7. Employers have practically complete control over workmen in regard to wages, hours, and working conditions. They must “take care” of their workmen-i.e. see that they are fed and do not grumble.
8. Collective bargaining is completely abolished; strikes are illegal; trade unions are forbidden; requests for wage increases are
lese majeste.
9. Control is completely from on top; there is and can be no such thing as control or discussion of policies from below; the “leaders” decide all things as they see fit; each holds appointed office for indefinite periods at the will of his superior.
10. The National Socialist Party and the German State are one and inseparable, as spirit and body. Legislative, executive, and judicial authorities are fused together. The central government controls all local government and all activities in all their details.
11. Civil and military are fused together; as in the military there can be no freedom of speech, of assembly, of writing, of acting, of “thoughts.” “Anyone may grumble or criticize the government who is not afraid to go to a concentration camp.” (Goebbels).
12. Germany must be made self-sufficient at all costs.
(Autarkie).
13. Non-Germans cannot be citizens; as a corollary, all Germans residing outside Germany either belong or owe allegiance to the Third Reich.
14 Communism (Bolshevism, Marxism) is the major enemy. There can be no such thing as equality of rights, opportunities, or income for classes, races, or sexes. The “broad masses” are fools and must be duped and led to meet the purposes of the elite
(Herrenstaat). Class war is the major crime; material rewards for the rank and file sheer folly.
15. All sciences and “culture” must be co-ordinated and made to serve the purposes of the “leader,” “total,” “corporate” “master”
(Herren)state. propaganda is the method. Propaganda knows neither right nor wrong, neither truth nor falsehood, but only what it wants.

In fact, business autonomy was severely limited by the imposition of the apparatus of state planning as Nazi Germany became a centrally planned economy similar to the Soviet Union, though in the case of Germany and Fascist Italy the economy was still very definitely capitalist private industry. Brady also goes on to discuss in his book how the Nazis celebrated and lauded the businessman as biologically superior through their social Darwinist ideology, and made sure that the leaders of industry, whether state-owned or private, were all drawn from the private sector.

Nazi rhetoric was anti-capitalist, but by this they meant free trade, which they identified with the Jews, just as they claimed the Jews were behind Socialism, Communism, the trade unions and other left-wing movements. They also borrowed some elements from Communism. Fellow Germans were ‘national comrades’, rather like the Marxist use of the term ‘comrade’ to describe a fellow Communist.

However, it is clear from this that Nazism was deeply Conservative and capitalist in its economic and social policies, and bitterly anti-socialist. It had socialist elements, but they were not taken seriously and only ever used as propaganda against the genuinely socialist parties and organisations. Any description of the Nazis as really socialist is utterly false and a lie, a rhetorical attempt to discredit contemporary socialism through guilt by association, and must be seen as such.

Outcry over Firms Microchipping Workers

November 12, 2018

I found this very ominous story in today’s I, for the 12th November 2018. It seems some firms are inserting microchips into their employees, and employers’ groups and trade unions have rightly come together to condemn it. The article reads

Both the employers and trade unions representative bodies have expressed alarm at reports that UK firms are considering implanting staff with microchips for security. UK firm BioTeq says it has already fitted 150 implants while Swedish firm Biohax has claimed it is in discussions with several UK firms. (p.2).

This is deeply sinister stuff, straight out of the X-Files. Never mind the bonkers conspiracy theories about aliens inserting implants into our bodies to control us, ordinary human capitalism is beginning to do that. From the article it seems that the chips are simply there to make sure employees are who they say they are, but this is nevertheless a real totalitarian move. As it stands, employees in some companies are very closely monitored. Private Eye printed a story a few months ago about how the weirdo Barclay Twins, who own the Torygraph, wished to have motion sensors attached to their hacks desks to make sure they weren’t moving around too much. They had to abandoned this intrusive and hare-brained scheme because it was resented so much by the hacks. Nevertheless, if this goes ahead uncontested, I can see more firms adopting the practice, right up to the government. After all, what better way to cut down on crime, identity theft and illegal immigration than have everyone implanted with a microchip containing all their biographical and biometric details. Blair’s government was, after all, considering passing legislation to establish compulsory electronic identity cards carrying biometric information. And I’ve no doubt other, deeply authoritarian regimes around the world would be all too enthusiastic about adopting the policy.

It also reminds me of the one part of the millennialist beliefs held by Fundamentalist Christians about the End Times and the one world global superstate they’re afraid of. In this myth, which has been around since the 1970s, once the global Satanic dictatorship is established with the Antichrist as its head, it will order barcodes to be marked on everyone’s hands and forehead. Those who don’t have the barcodes will be unable to buy or sell. It’s how they believed the prophecy in the Book of Revelation in the Bible that the Antichrist would have everyone marked with the number 666 on their hands and foreheads would come true in the modern world.

I really don’t believe in the religious right’s millennialist fears. One interpretation of the Book of Revelation is that it’s a coded description of the persecution the early church was experiencing under the Roman Emperor Nero. Both the Romans and Jews used various number codes, in which letters of the alphabet had certain numerical values. These could be used in ordinary secular ways, as well as in number mysticism, in which people tried to discern a deeper meaning in religious or mystical texts through adding up the numerical value of particular words. 666 corresponds to ‘Neron’, a form of Nero. He’s also believed to have been the person described in the Book of Revelation as ‘the great beast’, because as a young prince, before he got into power, he and his cronies thought it was jolly japes for him to go round Rome dressed as a beast and attack people. I think this is probably the right way to interpret that part of the Bible, rather than seeing it as a literal prediction of an imminent end of the world.

But even so, when faced with reports that the firms are trying to implant their workers with microchips, and Blair and authoritarian politicians after him would like to make it compulsory for us all to carry biometric electronic identity cards, I do wonder if the Fundamentalists have a point.

Private Eye on ‘Big Brother’ Surveillance Software

October 27, 2018

Private Eye has also published a couple of articles on the use of surveillance software to scan the internet compiling information for use by private corporations, medical authorities and the government. These present a serious threat to privacy, democracy and human freedom.

In their edition for 5th – 18th October 2018, the magazine carried the following story about how the Canadian government was using such software to collect information on cannabis users and those sympathetic to dope use. It ran

Someone, somewhere is always listening to you online. In Canada, that someone is set to be the government.

A recently published tender is seeking a technology partner to “examine Canadian social media sentiment toward Canabis legalization, with emphasis on public safety issues, such as driving after using cannabis”. In practice, this means that technology such as software and machine learning will beused to analyse social media posts to determine who thinks what about weed,, “the frequency with which the identified attitudes and behaviours are reported and the co-occurrence of different attitudes and behaviours.” And, “where able, the contractor must also explore the demographic (and other available) correlates of the attitudes and behaviours identified in the analyses.”

The Canadian government won’t say whether the data collected, and the social media profiles of those tracked, will be shared with law enforcers, but it’s fair to assume this is exactly what will happen in the future. (p. 16).

And in their issue for the previous fortnight, 21st September to 4th October 2018, they carried this story about how MIT had developed surveillance software to help medical professionals discover who, online, may suffer depression.

Researcher at MIT have been working on software that can be used to predict the likelihood that a person has, or is likely to suffer from, depression, based on machine analysis of answers to a battery of questions. The software was said to be 77 percent accurate in its predictions.

This has obvious practical applications in healthcare. As the paper notes, “To treat depressed individuals, they must first be diagnosed. To obtain a diagnosis, depressed individuals must actively reach out to mental health professionals. In reality, it can be difficult for the depressed to attain professional attention due to constraints of mobility, cost, and motivation. Passive automated monitoring of human communication may address these constraints and provide better screening for depression.”

As the tech website thenextweb.com observed, “passive automated monitoring of human communication” means, er, eavesdropping – meaning that a likely outcome of this software is a machine listening to your phone calls or reading your emails and using that data to decide whether or not you’re likely to be depressed, without you knowing it’s happening or possibly even knowing why, say, your insurance premiums have gone up or you didn’t get that promotion.

I’ve no problems with developing techniques to better diagnose depression and its treatment. But as the article says, this allows insurance companies and employers to snoop on people without their awareness or consent, and which may have serious harmful consequences for themselves or their careers.

It’s the stuff that Privacy International have been warning about since the mid-90s. And they also warn of the dangers of function creep. Once one part of the government starts using such techniques, others join in and the scope of the surveillance expands.

Hugo Rifkind Declares Anti-Semites Attracted to Left because of Anti-Capitalism

March 31, 2018

Hugo Rifkind is the son of Maggie’s cabinet minister, Malcolm Rifkind, so it shouldn’t surprise us that he espouses the same noxious politics as his father. He is like Boris Johnson in that he also has higher view of his own intelligence than he deserves. He once turned up on Mike’s blog trying to argue against him, only to run away when he started losing.

He turned up in the pages of the Spectator last week holding forth on the latest anti-Semitism smears against Corbyn and Momentum, a snippet of which was duly quoted in the I’s ‘Opinion Matrix’ column of selected short pieces from the rest of the press. Rifkind junior opined that, rather than trying to rebut the allegations of anti-Semitism, the Labour leader should reflect on why so many anti-Semites were attracted to anti-capitalism. It was all out of jealousy of more successful ethnic groups, he breezily declared.

Now it’s true that there, and always have been, anti-Semites amongst the Left. I found a book by one very Conservative writer in one secondhand bookshop about how many of the founders and leaders of early socialism were anti-Semites. It was clearly polemical. The argument running implicitly through such books is that because many of its leaders were anti-Semitic, socialism is intrinsically anti-Semitic. Which isn’t the case. Anti-Semitism is there, but it’s actually far less than on the right. And the Tories and their puppet media definitely don’t want you knowing that.

British Fascism grew out of right-wing, Die-Hard Conservatism at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. It was fiercely anti-immigration, especially against Jews, who were held to be unassimilable orientals, like Muslims today. It spawned a range of racist organisations like the British Brothers’ League, and became particularly acute during the First World War, when Jewish industrialists of German origin, like Alfred Mond, were suspected of favouring Germany over Britain. While the Tories have subsequently tried to purge their party of racists and anti-Semites, they are still very much present.

It’s also a matter of considerable debate how anti-capitalist Fascism is. When Mussolini became president of Italy, he was backed by the industrial and financial elite, and declared that his party stood for Manchester economics – in other words, free trade. The corporate state he created, which boasted of having trade unionists and employers together in a Chamber of Fasci and Corporations, never did anything more than rubber stamp his own decisions as Duce. It was also designed to smash the power of the unions by leaving them under the control of the managers and proprietors.

In Nazi Germany, the Socialists, Communists and Anarchists were rounded up and sent to the concentration camps along with other dissidents and racial groups, including the mentally ill, male homosexuals, prostitutes and the disabled. So were trade unionists after the Nazis smashed them. And far from nationalising industry, as claimed by Conservatives in America and Britain, Hitler actually privatised a greater number of state-owned enterprises than other European governments at the time. He also made speeches hailing the biological superiority of the owners and leaders of industry, and declared his full support for free trade and competition, although later on he subjected industry to a weak form of corporatist organisation and imposed a rigid system of central planning.

The problem can therefore be reframed by asking why so many people on the right, believing in free trade and private property, are attracted to anti-Semitism? Part of the answer, it seems to me, is that they believe that free trade and private industry are the perfect system. The argument is that, if left alone by the government, industry will be run efficiently, workers receive their proper wages, people of talent will rise to the top, and society will become increasingly prosperous and well-organised.

When the opposite is true, when wages are falling and businesses closing, right-wingers look around for a scapegoat. They go a little way to realising that the fault is the capitalist system itself, but violently reject socialism itself. Hitler set on calling his party ‘Socialist’ because it appealed to those, who only had a hazy idea what the word meant, and as a deliberate provocation to real Socialists. They may reject laissez-faire free trade and impose some restrictions on private industry, such as subjection to central planning. But their critique of capitalism, in the case of the Nazis and the Fascist groups influenced by them, was based firmly on the notion that it was fundamentally good. It was just being undermined by the Jews. Thus Hitler in a speech started out by ranting about how the Nazis would overturn the exploiters, and throw their money boxes out into the streets. But he then turned this around to say it was only Jewish businessmen, who were the exploiters they would attack. Aryan Germans were entirely good, and respected their racial fellows in the workforce. They would not suffer any attack by Hitler’s thugs.

But Rifkind and the rest of the Tory party, and the Thatcherite entryists of the Blairites, really don’t want you knowing about all this. It would confirm too many ideas about racism in the Tory party, and their hypocrisy in the latest anti-Semitism smears.

They are using these smears to deflect attention away from the increasingly obvious failure of laissez-faire, neo-liberal capitalism. Don’t believe them, and their hypocritical smears and lies.

Videos of People’s Assembly Demonstration against Budget

November 25, 2017

I found this on the channel of someone describing themselves as ‘Loveofpeace’. On Thursday, just before Philip Hammond released his vile, abysmal budget, the People’s Assembly organised a mass demonstration in front of 10 Downing Street, in which they piled up a small mountain of food, which they would later deliver to a real food bank. They did this to call attention to the mass starvation the Tories’ austerity policies are causing.

This is just a series of short snapshots of the demo, but it shows the workers piling on the food. There’s also a performance poet attacking the media for colluding with the government. It shows the signs up demanding an end to austerity, the sacking of the Tories, and defending the NHS. There’s also a banner from one of the Marxist parties or groups, and another sign saying ‘Migrants welcome here’.

There are now something like a quarter of a million people forced to use food banks. 7 million in ‘food insecure’ households, where they don’t know if this meal will be their last. And that liar Philip Hammond had the utter gall to appear on the Andrew Marr Show last Sunday and claim there were no jobless in Britain. He was wrong: Marr quoted the figure of 1.25 million. I don’t believe that, as the figures are fiddled so that they’re meaningless. I think the real figure is probably 4 million. Quite apart from the fact that most of the poor in Britain are actually in work. But they’re not making money because of low wages, zero hours contracts and all the other fiddles employers are using to not have to pay real wages. And Mike put up another piece about some female Tory from Yorkshire, somebody Pow, who claimed that people had thousands in the bank and the Tories had made them richer.

Well, they have made some people richer. Those, who were rich already. The top 25 per cent. Either this woman really doesn’t know any poor people – which is possible – or she’s suffering from serious cognitive dissonance, and actually believes what her party says – or she’s a liar. Either way, she’s telling porky pies, and is totally unsuited to government.

Get her, Hammond, May and the rest of the Tories out. Now. Before more people die from starvation.

Reichwing Watch on Libertarian Anarcho-Fascism

July 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fabian Society’s Recommendations for British Industrial Democracy

July 12, 2016

I’ve put up a number of pieces recently advocating various forms of industrial democracy, from the German and Austrian works councils, to the Guild Socialist version in Britain. The Labour Party was also considering introducing industrial democracy into British firms in the 1970s. This would have been extremely radical, and made up to about 50 per cent of the members of the boards of directors workers elected through the trade unions. The issue was further discussed in the Fabian Society’s pamphlet, Workers in the Boardroom: Fabian Evidence to the Bullock Committee on Industrial Democracy. In ‘Appendix 1: Conclusions of Fabian Tract “Working Power”‘, the Society laid out its recommendations for its introduction into British industry.

The Appendix states

There is now a strong case for more industrial democracy all the way up from the shop floor to the boardroom. Evidence of substantial support amongst employees and their representatives for such a development suggests that new democratic structures would have firm foundations. It is essential, however, if democratic change is to be more than a fa├žade, that it must be backed by trade union machinery and also build on existing collective bargaining systems.

Though there are problems to be overcome in the introduction of employee participation in management, some of the fears about trade union independence lose their validity if, as has been suggested, such participation is seen as an extension of the principles of collective bargaining (if not its actual form) to areas and levels which are now the subject of managerial prerogative. What is proposed is, in face, a system of dual power (employees and management) throughout industry, including the private sector.

Labour’s strategy to promote industrial democracy should be based on the following principles:

1. A single channel of representation.

2. Strengthening, extending and building on collective bargaining.

3. A multi-dimensional approach, capable of affecting managerial decision making at all levels from shop floor to boardroom.

4. Advancing democracy in the private sector as much as the public sector.

A programme to increase industrial democracy should include the following elements.

1. The Increase of trade union membership by establishing the right to join a union, by enabling trade unions, in difficulty over recognition, to use the ACAS and, in the last resort, unilateral arbitration facilities through the court, by reforming wages councils, and by much more vigorous trade union recruitment.

2. The extension of shop floor bargaining giving shop floor representatives minimum facilities as of right, by encouraging the codification of agreements, by widening their scope to include manpower planning, safety and work design (backed by government supported experiments) and by the statutory provision of information as of right.

3. The development of company and group bargaining to fill the missing gap between shop floor bargaining and employee representation on boards.

4. The introduction of employee representatives on boards by, as a first priority, introducing 50 per cent trade union representation on nationalised industry boards and, in the private sector, by setting up a two tier board structure, which a supreme supervisory board on which 50 per cent are trade union representatives, and by changing company obligations to take account of employee interests. In the private sector, employees should be given a choice as whether they want representation on the boards or not-in organised firms through trade union machinery and in non-organised firms, under ACAS supervision. The case for an independent chairman, elected by both sides of the supervisory board, ought to be considered.

5 The recognition of trade union responsibility for a major recruitment and educational effort, and also for a close watch against arbitrary exclusion and improper use of trade union machinery. Case for an independent tribunal as final court of appeal for aggrieved individuals to be considered.

If all, or even some, of the proposals suggested are implemented, they would result in a dramatic improvement in industrial democracy. We accept that they fall short of workers’ self-management. However, they are not a barrier to the achievement of such a goal. On the contrary, they represent an important step towards its. We should always remember democratic change is a movement towards rather than a final arrival.

These are certainly radical proposals, and something like 50 per cent trade union representation may be too much for some people. but we certainly need a system like this, and improved trade union power, to protect British working people from the utter poverty and precarity now imposed by employers through zero hours contracts and so on.