Posts Tagged ‘Employers’

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 façade, 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.

John Strachey on Using Welfare Spending to Break Capital’s Control of Working People

July 12, 2016

Strachey Socialism pic

Yesterday I put up John Strachey’s six point programme for a radical Socialist reform of the economy from his 1940 book, A Programme for Progress (London: Victor Gollancz). In the same book, Strachey makes the point that spending money on welfare services and public works is, contra to the Tories and classical economists, not wasteful. He then goes on to make the point that the state, by giving welfare provision to workers in the form of pensions and unemployment benefits, breaks the absolute grip of the employers over them. He writes

Welfare Spending Is Not Wasteful

Before going on to the underlying theory of the function of money in such a society as ours, it is necessary to establish that this is no less true of our third, last, and most startling plank – the proposal of giving people newly created money as a remedy for unemployment. For there is a very strong prejudice in our minds which almost compels us to suppose that giving away money for nothing in this way (by way, say, of old age pensions or children’s allowances) is a wild proceeding; that a government which did that would be for instance, far more profligate than on which spent a like sum on public works; that to give money away is sheer waste; that such a government would “get nothing for its money”. But this is not the case. The truth is that a decision to give people money is a decision to have more consumers’ goods and services produced, while the expenditure of money on a public works programme is a decision to have more means of production produced. That is the difference.

All talk of it being waste and squandering to give otherwise destitute or severely straitened people money with which to buy consumers’ goods is nonsense. The money will circulate through the system at least as well if it is put in at this point as it will if it is put in at the means of production end. If it is given to the ultimate consumers, it will flow first into the hands of the producers of consumers’ good, next to the producers of producers’ goods, next to the banks, and finally back to the Government itself, just as surely as if it were spent on building new factories in the most orthodox manner. It is necessary to insist up this point, for our minds have been so condition that we almost all tend to believe that money given, say, to the unemployed, or the old, is spent and gone, used up once and for all-if not actually wasted-in a sense in which money invested (a much more respectable word than spent)in a new factory, or in public works, especially if they are of an income-producing type, is not.

But there is not a word of truth in it. The one sum of money is spent on consumers’ goods, the other and producers’ goods. And that is all the difference there. (pp. 93-4).

This is a point which the Keynsian economists cited by Mike over at Vox Political, and by the Angry Yorkshireman, have been making time and again. It’s entirely correct, and was one of the reasons Roosevelt’s New Deal was so successful.

Breaking the Employers’ Grip

Of the effect of welfare spending breaking the stranglehold employers have over working people, Strachey writes

Is it, then, mere intellectual error which makes the dominant, ruling, financial section of the capitalist class so vehemently oppose all policies of this sort for re-employing the factors of production? We shall find, on the contrary, there is quite a rational explanation of their opposition. We have seen that private enterprise knows no way of getting extra money into the hands of the ultimate consumers except by employing them on the production of producers’ goods, or of durable goods such as houses. But now look at the proposition from another standpoint. From the point of view of the ultimate consumers, this means that they cannot live until they can get some private entrepreneur to employ them. It expresses, in a word, the dependence of the people of a capitalist society upon those who own the means of production. It expresses the monopoly of economic power which rests in the hands of these owners. It is precisely because all those who do not own, and have no independent access to the means of production cannot get money into their hands in any other way than by selling their ability to labour, that the owners are enabled to dictate the terms of sale of labour power. it is this which enables them to reap for themselves a rich harvest of the fruits of the labour of others. But what if a new channel is dug by which money can come into the hands of the mass of the population without their having to sell their ability to labour to the employers? To the extent that this is done the employer’s hold over the population is weakened; his power to dictate the terms of employment, rates of wages, hours of work, etc., is qualified. For the worker can now live without him. Nor is there the least doubt of the immediate, strong and practical effect which the provision of decent scales of old age pensions, children’s allowances, and any other distributions of purchasing power will have upon the bargaining power of the wage-earners. The real reason, then, which the great capitalists, and those who consciously or unconsciously speak for them, will always feel that direct distributions of money to the ultimate consumers are a grossly unsound measure, is that it weakens the absolute character of their control over the working population. The capitalists are bound to object that if you give the workers money for anything except work in private profit-making industry, they will get “out of hand”. And so they will; they will get out of their employer’s hand. Surely no democrat will deplore this? But if the employer’s capacity to impose dictatorially the obligation to work upon the rest of the population is ended, it will ultimately be necessary for society to devise a democratic form of self-discipline by which the natural obligation to labour is enforced by society itself.

Experience tends to show, however, that this necessity is far more remote than might be supposed. the conservative’s nightmare that if, for instance, the Government paid really adequate relief to all the unemployed, no one would come to work the next day, is grotesquely incorrect- though no doubt the strengthening of the bargaining position of the workers which would result would be remarkable. Moreover, it is perfectly possible to arrange the giving of money to the ultimate cons8umers in such a way that any tendency to enable the slacker to live without working is reduced to a minimum. For the money can be given to sections of the population who are not required to work in any case. The obvious sections are the old or the very young. Really adequate old age pensions, or children’s allowances, paid out of newly created money, are a most valuable part of a programme for re-employing the factors of production in the conditions of economic stagnation which have recently obtained in contemporary Britain and America. (pp. 98-100).

And this is what the Tories do indeed fear, and have done. One of the first things Thatcher did was to cut the entitlement of striking workers to social security benefit. It’s why they have been so hard on the unemployed, and replaced unemployment benefit with ‘Jobseekers allowance’. And it underpins the whole of workfare and the sanctions system. It is part of keeping a cowed, powerless workforce desperate to accept any job, no matter how tenuous and poorly paid. And it needs to stop. Now.

Labour’s Ernest Bevin and European Union

June 6, 2016

I’ve posted several pieces pointing out that the idea of a united Europe, or a European parliament, ultimately goes back to the Quaker William Penn in the 17th and 18th century philosophers and idealists, such as Immanuel Kant. In his essay, On Perpetual Peace, Kant advocated the creation of a federal European state as a way of preventing further European wars. The great Italian patriot and revolutionary, Mazzini, also believed in a federation of European nation states, dedicated to peace.

In the 20th century, one of the great advocates for European economic union in the Labour movement was Ernest Bevin. Bevin was one of the founders, with Harry Gosling, of the TGWU and the foreign minister in Atlee’s government after the War. At the TUC Congress in 1926, Bevin urged in the name of his union that a formal resolution should be passed

That notwithstanding the political divisions of Europe, this Congress instructs the General Council to further, through the international organisations, a policy having for its object the creation of a European public opinion in favour of Europe becoming an economic unity.
(Francis Williams, Ernest Bevin: Portrait of a Great Englishman (London: Hutchinson 1952, p. 149).

Bevin was a frequent visitor to the International Labour Office in Geneva, and helped to reform the International Transport Workers’ Federation after the War. His biographer, Francis Williams, considered that his experience of the profound economic links between workers in various countries right across Europe helped shape his internationalism and support for European economic union. Williams writes of his 1927 speech in favour of economic union for Europe

“Anyone who has had to follow the transport trades of the world”, he said, “realizes that while you may satisfy political ambitions by the establishment of boundaries the economic development of the world is often in total conflict with national aspirations. I recognise and my union recognises that national aspirations and national boundaries are bound to be a great handicap to us … but we also believe that if we are to develop nationally we have got to show our people unionism in terms of raw materials, in terms of harvests, cycles of trade and exchange…”

“We have,” he continued, “debated all this week as if Britain had no industrial problem to solve. But Britain has got a problem and it is no use attacking unemployment unless we try at least to make a contribution towards its solution and one of the complications throughout Europe has been the creation of a greater number of national boundaries as a result of the Versailles Treaty… The Labour Movement should carry on a great educational work in promoting the development of all forms of national culture even to the extent of political divisions and yet at the same time to inculcate the spirit of a United States of Europe on an economic basis… Cast your eye over Europe,” he went on, “with its millions of underfed, with its millions of people with a wretchedly low standard of living. We can have mass production, we can have intensified production, but we must, in order to absorb that mass production direct consuming power ot the millions of people in Europe whose standard of living is not far removed from the animal…. When we meet our international friends (let us) talk of the real problems of Europe in terms of materials, in terms of goods, in terms of the productive capacity of the peasantry, in terms of exchange, and drive along the line of endeavouring to create a feeling of interdependence between the production of the peasantry from the land of the craftsmanship of the workshop…”

Although in 1927 Bevin no doubt underestimated the political difficulties in the way of European Economic Union and was somewhat too facile in his belief in a United States of Europe this speech is interesting not only for its evidence of the widening of his own view of the duty of the trade unions but because the premises on which it was based remained all his life fundamental to his view of international affairs. They later deeply influenced his policy as Foreign Secretary, not least in his response some twenty years later to Mr. Marshall’s Harvard speech on European economic dislocation the full significance of which, as the Annual Register at the time commented, “was not realised on either side of the Atlantic” until Bevin “grasped with both hands” the opportunity it offered of American aid in initiating European co-operation and thus brought into being the Marshall Plan.

In 1927 he was thinking aloud, dreaming a little as he said because “to be a dreamer is sometimes necessary”, and his thoughts brought many angry responses from other delegates to the Congress. Some of them opposed him because they considered that it was the T.U.C.’s business to deal with practical matters and not waste its time on large visions of this kind, others because the idea of European union seemed to them to run counter to the old socialist ideal of an all-embracing international. To this latter argument Bevin replied belligerently that he was not less an internationalist because he was also a realist. It was fine to talk about a world-wide international. but that was far away. meanwhile trade barriers to Europe were keeping living standards low and big employers were developing cartels to safeguard their own interests at the expense of the community. His resolution was carried in the end by 2,258,000 votes to 1,464,000 although both the miners and the railwaymen opposed him. (pp. 151-2).

Williams also says of his idea for a united Europe that

In the past he had been preoccupied with the need to develop trade union power in order to establish a counter-weight to the organised power of employers. Now he saw the solution to many of the world’s economic problems in somewhat similar terms, preaching the need for Britain to develop, either through participation in an economic United States of Europe “spreading from the borders of Russia right to the borders of France”, or in a Commonwealth and European bloc or both, a counter-weight to the economic power of the United States and the potential economic power of Russia. (p. 153).

This was one of the reasons the EEC, the EU’s precursor was founded – so that through an economic union European trade and industry could compete with the US and Soviet blocs. Moreover, the Social Charter in the EU safeguards some basic workers’ rights, rights that are severely threatened by the Brexit campaign.

Kropotkin on How Employment Contracts Are Not the Product of Free Consent

April 26, 2016

In my last post, I quote the great Russian Anarchist, Peter Kropotkin, on how capitalism will deliberately limit production and throw people out of work in order to keep profits high. In his essay ‘Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles’, Kropotkin also made this scathing criticism of the idea that employment contracts between employer and worker were made from free choice, when the reality was that the only choice was starvation for the worker. He wrote

First of all, there are two kinds of agreements: there is the free one which is entered upon by free consent, as a free choice between different courses equally open to each of the agreeing parties; and there is the enforced agreement, imposed by one party upon the other, and accepted by the latter from sheer necessity; in fact, it is no agreement at all; it is a mere submission to necessity. Unhappily, the great bulk of what are now described as agreements belong to the latter category. When a workman sells his labour to an employer, and knows perfectly well that some part of the value of his produce will be unjustly taken by the employer; when he sells it without even the slightest guarantee of being employed so much six consecutive months- and he is compelled to do so because he and his family would otherwise starve next week – it is a sad mockery to call that a free contract. Modern economists may call it free, but the father of political economy – Adam Smith – was never guilty of such a misrepresentation. (Peter Kropotkin, ed. Nicolas Walter, Anarchism and Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles (London: Freedom Press 1987) 52).

This has been the basis of Tory unemployment policy ever since Maggie took power in 1979. It was why the Tories introduced delays into benefit payments for workers, who voluntarily made themselves unemployed. And the same reasoning is behind the sanctions systems, and the idiotic contract you are supposed to sign indicating that you are actively looking for work when you sign on at the Jobcentre.

William Blackley’s 19th Century Plan for ‘National Insurance’

March 14, 2016

Looking through Pauline Gregg’s book, The Welfare State, I found this very interesting passage discussing William Blackley’s scheme in 1878 for setting up something very much like the National Insurance that forms part of the Social Security system set up as part of the welfare State. She writes

It [the 19th century movement for social reform] included the suggestions of a Church of England clergyman, the Reverend William Lewery Blackley, who, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, advanced the notion of basing social security upon an insurance principle. His scheme was startlingly simple. There would be a compulsory levy on all wage- or income-earners from the age of about seventeen, the total amount payable by each person to be assessed according to his earnings by a National Friendly Society or Club. But though the total payment was fixed, the time taken to pay it was at the payer’s discretion, with an outside age limit of twenty-one, and there might be a reducation for rapid payment. It is remarkable how much of the scheme later adopted by the Government was anticipated by Blackley. Arguing that the instrument of the National Friendly Club would need to be present in every parish, he seized upon the Post Office as the executor of his plan. Going to the source of income, as the National Insurance Acts to, he put the onus on employers to deduct the instalments of the national tax from wages, and he made proof of payment depend upon stamps stuck upon a card. The amount paid was thus readily ascertainable, and when a card was fully stamped the holder was exempt from further payments. In return for the sum of £10, which Blackley tentatively suggested as an average amount of levy, claims of something like 8s. a week for sickness and 4s a week as pension over the age of seventy were proposed. Not only would his scheme take away the stigma of Poor Law relief from the old and the sick, but, since the rich would be paying higher contributions and would not claim benefits, funds would accumulate and the National Friendly Club remain permanently solvent. In anticipating the actual words ‘National Insurance’ in the title of one of his articles in the Nineteenth Century Review in 1878 Blackley was in some doubt. “I have long hesitated”, he wrote, “before fixing on such a title as I have chosen for the present writing, from a knowledge that its very sound may induce most readers to pass it over as a matter so extravagant, impracticable, and Utopian, as to be unworthy of serious consideration.”

(Pp. 8-9).

Unfortunately, few people did consider his scheme worth considering. It’s a pity, because if the plan had been put into action, much of the squalor and suffering of the Victorian age could have been alleviated, and the foundation of the welfare state put in place forty years early.

Vox Political on Yvette Cooper Condemning Renationalisation

February 23, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political also has a piece from the Independent about Yvette Cooper. Apparently, she is set to make a speech attacking the nationalisation of industry as an old, discredited idea. It will not help modern workers, according to her, or those trying to ‘build an app’. Mike therefore asks if she’s deliberately trying to mislead people about the issue in defending ‘wasteful’ privatisation. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/23/is-yvette-cooper-deliberately-misleading-people-about-nationalisation/.

Now I agree with Mike that privatisation is wasteful. It also led, paradoxically, to a massive increase in bureaucracy. This expanded massively when the utility companies, including that for water, sewage and the environment, were sold off and separate regulatory bodies had to be set up. In order to try and keep to their promise that selling off Britain’s family silver would reduce bureaucracy, they had to cut down on the regulatory bodies so that they wouldn’t have so much power, and wouldn’t represent the interests of the consumers. And there was also the usual revolving doors between the civil service and the privatised utility companies, where the mandarins who were supposed to be watching them in the public interest did no such thing, and later got a job with them after they left Whitehall. I can remember reading report after report on this, fortnight after fortnight, in Private Eye in the ’90s. It was all part of the sleaze surrounding John Major’s administration.

I’ve also heard that, despite the impression given by privatisation that all aspects of energy generation, and its supply, and that of water and gas, the actual infrastructure remains the concern of the state. The private utility companies get to cream off the profits, but the actual maintenance of the national grid, pipes and so on remain the duty of the state, which bears the financial burden. Now I’ll have to check on this, but if it’s true, then privatisation really has been just a scam with minimal benefit to the consumers. Quite beyond the very obvious profiteering we’ve seen by the energy companies themselves.

Now let’s come to the example of the information technology industry she used. It won’t help workers developing an app, according to Cooper. Now, the free marketeers just love the computing and information technology. Look, they say, at the way a group of private individuals in the 1970s – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and others, built a whole industry from sheer private enterprise, all in the garages or spare time or whatever. The Financial Times had a go at this myth, as did Adam Curtis in his documentary, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace. The Financial Times pointed out that the kids, who were able to create the modern computing industry, were able to do so not because of the free market, or because their part of California had excellent schools, or indeed any of that. They were able to get ahead and develop it because they were all already very wealthy, and could afford to develop their creations. And Adam Curtis in his documentary went and showed that the mathematical basis behind the suggestion that private enterprise gives better results through allowing people to co-operate independently and form a coherent strategy without a central planner was also baloney.

And if you want a real counter-example, then try France. The French computer industry was created in the 1970s through the efforts of the French state. And the French have been very successful in their efforts. So central planning, nationalisation and state investment can help create jobs in the high technology sector. Even in America, my guess is that much of the technology sector is supported by generous state subsidies, regardless of what Cooper believes or think she knows about the benefits of laissez faire industry.

Now I have to say, I think Cooper genuinely believes that private enterprise is superior to nationalised and state-owned industry. It’s a basic item of faith of the New Labour clique. And she also has a point about nationalisation not necessarily benefiting workers. Harry Gosling, the founder of the T&GWU with Ernest Bevin, made a speech in Bristol stating that nationalisation wouldn’t do so unless it involved a degree of worker’s control. And proper representation of the workforce in the workplace is what trade unions are for. It’s also what the Labour party was set up to do. Unfortunately, Blair, Broon and New Labour decided that they didn’t. Just before one of the two left office – I can’t remember which one – they passed a whole tranche of legislation actually weakening the unions. Moreover, on the government website telling you what rights you had under the law as a worker, there was also a secret section for employers that told them how they could circumvent all this. So there’s an element of hypocrisy there. Cooper’s against nationalisation, because it wouldn’t help the workers. But Blair wasn’t keen on organised Labour either. I can remember how he threatened to cut the ties between the unions and the Labour party.

And there’s more, much more to be said about this. I’ll blog about the foundation of the nationalised industries some other time. But for now, the opposite of what Cooper said is true: privatisation is discredited, and the privatisers of New Labour have also shown themselves unwilling to act for the poor or the working class either. It’s why UKIP took off so spectacularly. And while their leadership are privatisers on steroids, most of the grassroots members actually want the utilities nationalised. The Angry Yorkshireman wrote several pieces about this, all of which are worth reading.

Meme on Why Immigrants Aren’t Stealing Jobs

January 12, 2016

This is another great meme from 1000 Natural Shocks (over 18s only), which sets out who’s really responsible for job losses in America. And because we’re part of the same globalised economy and Neoliberal economic thinking, over here as well.

Immigrants Not Stealing Jobs