Posts Tagged ‘Fabian Society’

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Three

May 16, 2020

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Socialism and Marriage, Children, Liberty and Religion

Shaw also discusses what socialism would mean for marriage, liberty, children and the churches, and these are the most problematic sections of the book. He looks forward to marriage being a purely voluntary commitment, where people people can marry for love instead of financial advancement. This will produce biologically better children, because people will be able to choose the best partners, rather than be limited to only those from their class. At the same time incompatible partners will be able to divorce each other free of stigma.

He defines liberty in terms of personal freedom. Under socialism, people will be freer because the amount of time they will have for their personal amusement and recreation will be greater. Legislation might go down, because the laws currently needed to protect people will become unnecessary as socialism is established and society advances. Shaw also believes that greater free time would be enough to attract the top brains to management positions in the absence of the usual inducement of greater pay. Shaw realised that not everyone could run industries, and that it was necessary to hire the very best people, who would be a small minority. Giving them greater leisure time was the best way to do this, and he later criticises the Soviet government for not equalising incomes.

But this is sheer utopianism. The Bolsheviks had tried to equalise incomes, and it didn’t work, which is why they went back to higher rates of pay for managers and so on. And as we’ve seen, socialism doesn’t necessarily lead to greater free time and certainly not less legislation. The better argument is that socialism leads to greater liberty because under socialism people have better opportunities available to them for careers, sport, entertainment and personal improvement than they would if they were mere capitalist wage slaves.

Religious people will also object to his views on religion and the churches. While earlier in the book Shaw addressed the reader as a fellow Christian, his attitude in this section is one of a religious sceptic. The reader will have already been warned of this through the foreword by Toynbee. The Groaniad columnist is a high-ranking member of the both the Secular and Humanist Societies, and her columns and articles in just about every magazine or newspaper she wrote for contained sneers at religion. Shaw considers the various Christian denominations irreconcilable in their theologies, and pour scorn on orthodox Christian doctrines such as the Atonement, that Christ died for our sins. Religion should not be taught in school, because of the incompatibility of the account of the Creation in Genesis with modern science. Children should not be taught about religion at all under they are of the age of consent. If their parents do teach them, the children are to be removed from their care. This is the attitude of very aggressive secularists and atheists. Richard Dawkins had the same attitude, but eventually reversed it. It’s far too authoritarian for most people. Mike and I went to a church school, and received a very good education from teachers that did believe in evolution. Religion deals with ultimate questions of existence and morality that go far beyond science. I therefore strongly believe that parents have the right to bring their children up in their religion, as long as they are aware of the existence of other views and that those who hold them are not wicked simply for doing so. He also believed that instead of children having information pumped into them, the business should be to educate children to the basic level they need to be able to live and work in modern society, and then allow the child to choose for itself what it wants to study.

Communism and Fascism

This last section of the book includes Shaw’s observations on Russian Communism and Fascism. Shaw had visited the USSR in the early ’30s, and like the other Fabians had been duped by Stalin. He praised it as the new socialist society that was eradicating poverty and class differences. He also thought that its early history vindicated the Fabian approach of cautious nationalisation. Lenin had first nationalised everything, and then had to go back on it and restore capitalism and the capitalist managers under the New Economic Policy. But Russia was to be admired because it had done this reversal quite openly, while such changes were kept very quiet in capitalism. If there were problems in the country’s industrialisation, it was due to mass sabotage by the kulaks – the wealthy peasants – and the industrialists. He also recognised that the previous capitalist elite were disenfranchised, forced into manual labour, and their children denied education until the working class children had been served. At the same time, the Soviet leaders had been members of the upper classes themselves, and in order to present themselves as working class leaders had claimed working class parentage. These issues were, however, gradually working themselves out. The Soviet leaders no longer had need of such personal propaganda, and the former capitalists could reconcile themselves to the regime as members of the intellectual proletariat. And some of the industrialisation was being performed by criminals, but this was less arduous than the labour in our prisons.

Shaw is right about the NEP showing that nationalisation needs to be preceded by careful preparation. But he was obviously kept ignorant of the famine that was raging in the USSR through forced collectivisation and the mass murder of the kulaks. And rather than a few criminals in the gulags, the real figures were millions of forced labourers. They were innocent of any crime except Stalin’s paranoia and the need of his managers for cheap slave labour. It’s believed that about 30 millions died in Stalin’s purges, while 7 million died in the famine in the Ukraine.

Shaw’s treatment of Fascism seems to be based mostly on the career of Mussolini. He considers Fascism just a revival of the craze for absolute monarchy and military leadership, of the kind that had produced Henry VIII in England, Napoleon, and now Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, the Shah of Iran and Ataturk in Turkey. These new absolute rulers had started out as working class radicals, before find out that the changes they wanted would not come from the working class. They had therefore appealed to the respectable middle class, swept away democracy and the old municipal councils, which were really talking shops for elderly tradesmen which accomplished little. They had then embarked on a campaign against liberalism and the left, smashing those organisations and imprisoning their members. Some form of parliament had been retained in order to reassure the people. At the same time, wars were started to divert the population and stop them criticising the new generalissimo. Industry was approaching socialism by combining into trusts. However, the government would not introduce socialism or truly effective government because of middle class opposition. Fascist regimes wouldn’t last, because their leaders were, like the rest of us, only mortal. In fact Mussolini was overthrown by the other Fascists, who then surrendered to the Allies, partly because of his failing health. That, and his utter military incompetence which meant that Italy was very definitely losing the War and the Allies were steadily advancing up the peninsula. While this potted biography of the typical Fascist is true of Mussolini, it doesn’t really fit some of the others. The Shah, for example, was an Indian prince.

Anarchism and Syndicalism

Shaw is much less informed about anarchism. He really only discusses it in terms of ‘Communist Anarchism’, which he dismisses as a silly contradiction in terms. Communism meant more legislation, while anarchism clearly meant less. He should have the articles and books on Anarcho-communism by Peter Kropotkin. Kropotkin believed that goods and services should be taken over by the whole community. However, rather than a complete absence of government and legislation, society would be managed instead by individual communities and federations.

He also dismisses syndicalism, in which industry would be taken over and run by the trade unions. He considers this just another form of capitalism, with the place of the managers being taken by the workers. These would still fleece the consumer, while at the same time leave the problem of the great inequality in the distribution of wealth untouched, as some industries would obviously be poorer than others. But the Guild Socialists did believe that there should be a kind of central authority to represent the interests of the consumer. And one of the reasons why nationalisation, in the view of some socialists, failed to gain the popular support needed to defend it against the privatisations of the Tories is because the workers in the nationalised industries after the War were disappointed in their hopes for a great role in their management. The Labour party merely wanted nationalisation to be a simple exchange of public for private management, with no profound changes to the management structure. In some cases the same personnel were left in place. Unions were to be given a role in management through the various planning bodies. But this was far less than many workers and trade unionists hoped. If nationalisation is to have any meaning, it must allow for a proper, expanded role of the workers themselves in the business of managing their companies and industries.

The book ends with a peroration and a discussion of the works that have influenced and interest Shaw. In the peroration Shaw exhorts the readers not to be upset by the mass poverty and misery of the time, but to deplore the waste of opportunities for health, prosperity and happiness of the time, and to look forward and work for a better, socialist future.

His ‘Instead of a Bibliography’ is a kind of potted history of books critical of capitalism and advocating socialism from David Ricardo’s formulation of capitalism in the 19th century. These also include literary figures like Ruskin, Carlyle and Dickens. He states that he has replaced Marx’s theory of surplus value with Jevons treatment of rent, in order to show how capitalism deprives workers of their rightful share of the profits.

 

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Two

May 16, 2020

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Trade Unions

He discusses the unions, which he describes as ‘proletarian capitalists’. They are there to protect the workers, who have to sell their labour just as the businessman has to sell the product they create. Unions are there to ensure the workers are able to charge the highest price they can for their labour. He also discusses strikes and lockouts, including the violence of some industrial disputes. Scabs need police protection against being beaten, and angry workers will tamper with the equipment so that anyone using it will be injured. They will also place fulminate of mercury in chimneys to cause an explosion if someone starts up the furnaces.

Party Politics and Socialism

Shaw describes the class conflict between the Tories, representing the aristocracy, and the Liberals, who represented the industrial middle classes. These competed for working class votes by extending the franchise and passing legislation like the Factory Acts to improve working conditions. However, each was as bad the other. The aristocracy kept their workers in poverty in the countryside, while the middle classes exploited them in the factories. The laws they passed for the working poor were partly designed to attack their opponents of the opposite class.

He goes on to give a brief history of British socialism, beginning with Marx, William Morris’ Socialist League, and Hyndeman’s Social Democratic Federation. These were small, middle class groups, disconnected from the British working class through their opposition to trade unions and the cooperatives. It was only when British socialism combined with them under Keir Hardie and the Independent Labour Party that socialism became a real force in working class politics. The Fabian Society has been an important part of this, and has made socialism respectable so that the genteel middle classes may join it as Conservatives join their Constitutional Club.

Shaw believed that socialism would advance, simply because of the numerical supremacy of the working classes, and that soon parliament would be full of Labour MPs. However, he also recognised that many members of the proletariat were anti-Socialist. This is because they depended for their livelihood on the businesses serving the idle rich. He called this section of the working class the ‘parasitic proletariat’. The working class is also distracted away from socialism through lotteries and so on.

Democratic, Parliamentary Socialism and Nationalisation

Shaw argues strongly that socialism could only be established through democratic, parliamentary action. General strikes wouldn’t work, as the employers would simply starve the workers out. The strikes intended to stop the outbreak of the First World War had failed the moment the first bomb dropped killing babies. Violent revolutions were purely destructive. Apart from the human lives lost, they destroyed the country’s vital industrial and economic structure. Socialism needed to build on this, not destroy it. Similarly, confiscating the capitalists’ wealth, either directly through nationalisation without compensation, or by taxing capital, was also counterproductive. The capitalists would simply sell their shares or unwillingly surrender them. The result would be bankruptcy and mass unemployment. This would result in further working class unrest, which would end in a counterrevolution.

The only way socialism could proceed would be by long preparation. You should only nationalise an industry once there was a suitable government department to run it. Compensation should be given to the former proprietors. This did not mean robbing the workers to pay their former exploiters, as the money would come from taxing the upper classes so that the class as a whole would be slightly worse off than before, even though the former owners were slightly better off.  You can see here and in Shaw’s warning of the ineffectiveness of general strikes the bitterness that still lingered amongst the working class after the failure of the General Strike of the 1920s.

Nationalisation could also only be done through parliament. There were, however, problems with parliamentary party politics. If the socialist party grew too big, it would split into competing factions divided on other issues, whose squabbles would defeat the overall purpose. Party politics were also a hindrance, in that it meant that one party would always oppose the policies of the other, even though they secretly supported them, because that was how the system worked. We’ve seen it in our day when the Tories before the 2010 election made a great show of opposing Blair’s hospital closures, but when in power did exactly the same and worse. Shaw recommends instead that the political process should follow that of the municipalities, where party divisions were still high, but where the process of legislation was done through committees and so on parties were better able to cooperate.

Limited Role for Capitalism

Shaw also argued against total nationalisation. He begins the book by stating that socialists don’t want to nationalise personal wealth. They weren’t going to seize women’s jewels, nor prevent a woman making extra cash for herself by singing in public or raising prize chrysanthemums, although it might in time be considered bad form to do so. Only big, routine businesses would be nationalised. Small businesses would be encouraged, as would innovatory private companies, though once they became routine they too would eventually be taken over by the state.

It’s a great argument for a pluralistic mixed economy, of the type that produced solid economic growth and working class prosperity after World War II, right up to 1979 and Thatcher’s victory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part One

May 16, 2020

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Introduction

This is a great book. It’s the kind of book on socialism I was very much looking for in the 1980s when the papers were all praising Margaret Thatcher and alleged superiority of capitalism to the heavens. What I wanted then was a classic defence of socialism, which clearly showed the destructive nature and defects of capitalism, and how these would be removed for the better under a proper socialist government with a clear idea of what needed to be done and how it could be achieved.

This is a rather long review, so I’ve split up into four parts.

The book was written between 1924 and 1928, when it was first published. George Bernard Shaw is one of the great figures in British socialism. An Irishman, he was one of the founders of the Fabian Society along with Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and editor of its anthology of socialist writings, Fabian Essays. He’s best known for his play Pygamalion, about a linguist, Henry Higgins, who takes Eliza, a rough working class girl, and tries to mould her so she can pass as a lady of the genteel classes. It was filmed as the musical My Fair Lady, starring Rex Harrison.

Shaw wrote it between 1924 and 1928, when it was published, at the request of his sister-in-law, Lady Cholmondley. She had asked him to write a letter explaining socialism for women. Shaw looked into it, and discovered that amongst the masses of literature about socialism, there weren’t any books that realised that there were such creatures. And, he adds in his ‘Instead of a Bibliography’, very few that recognised the existence of men either. The book’s addressed to a female audience. The reader is a ‘she’ and the examples given are taken from women’s lives, jobs and experience. Shaw recognises that most women are occupied as wives and mothers, or shop girls and workers in the great weaving mills, the common female roles at the time. But he also recognises and fully supports the fact that more professions were being opened up to women in science, law, medicine and so on. If done badly, this approach by a male writer can seem patronising, but Shaw, as a great writer, manages to avoid it. And even though it’s aimed at women, I greatly enjoyed it, and would recommend it to other blokes.

Capital, Equality of Incomes and Imperialism

Shaw tries to present complex ideas about capitalism by simplifying them down to the level of ordinary people’s housekeeping or domestic economy. He defines capital as left over money. It’s the money you have left after spending your income on rent, food and so on. This is the money that the idle rich, the landlords, invest in industry. And money’s only real value is for the food and clothing that it will purchase. You cannot eat money, and the food it will buy must be eaten or else it will be spoilt. Which means that money must be invested and used, rather than stored up.

At the heart of Shaw’s view of socialism is the equalization of incomes. He believed that everyone should earn exactly the same amount. Capitalism had created vast inequalities of wealth. On the one hand there was a small minority of the idle rich, who had to invent pastimes and diversions in order to use up their wealth. On the other was the vast mass of the poor, living at or near starvation level. He begins by asking the reader how they would divide up the nation’s wealth, challenging the reader to think for herself rather than let him do her thinking for her. He then proceeds to argue that it is impossible to decide that one person should be paid more or less than another because of their personal morality or ability. He sharply criticises the quasi-feudal economy of his day, when 90 per cent of the country worked to support the gentry, who only comprised ten per cent of the country’s population. They do nothing for it, don’t benefit from it, as they can’t personally eat or drink more than anyone else. And instead of investing it, they simply take it out of the country to invest it or spend it abroad. He also attacks British imperialism for this same thing. It hasn’t benefited the peoples we have conquered nor British tradespeople, businessmen and workers. It has led to the exploitation of Blacks abroad, who can paid far less than their British counterparts. Thus Britain is flooded with cheap imports, and British companies are going bust and their workers laid off.

The Progress of Capitalism and Decline of the Businessman Owner

Shaw then describes how the middle class have their origins as the younger sons of the aristocracy, with a few acute remarks on the absurd gradations of class which meant that a wholesaler was socially superior to a retailer. His father was a businessman, who had been a member of the gentry. As such he looked down on the elite Dublin shopkeepers, even though they were richer and entertained the local Irish aristocracy, which he very definitely couldn’t. But business was changing. The age of the small businessman in personal possession of his business, was giving way to joint-stock companies owned by their shareholders and managed by professional, salaried staff. Under pressure from the unions, they were combining to  form monopolistic trusts. This made them ready for nationalisation.

Nationalisation and the Coal Industry

He presents the coal industry as particularly needing nationalisation. At the time he wrote, there were a number of different mining companies. Some worked poor mines and were close to bankruptcy, others very rich. However, miners wages were set at the level the poor mines could afford, which was near starvation. Coal prices were set for the rich mines, and so prices were high. The miners were thus being starved and the consumer overcharged. The mines should thus be nationalised so that the workers were paid a fair wage, and the consumer a fair price. Shaw advocated nationalisation so that costs and prices could be brought down and goods sold at cost price.

Banks and the Stock Market

He also discusses and explains finance capitalism, stocks and shares, debentures, futures and the stock market. He warns the reader against get-rich-quick scams, like the bucket shops which will charge his prices for very risky shares. If people want to invest, they should do so with the government or municipality. Their shares won’t provide a great yield, but they will be safe. He recommends that banks should be nationalised because of the problems the small businessman had acquiring capital. The big businesses rely on financiers, who certainly won’t lend the small businessman wanting a modest loan anything. Neither will the banks. He pointed to Birmingham as an example for the future, as it had established a municipal bank to serve the customers the big banks wouldn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaw on Imperialism: Exploitation Abroad, Poverty and Unemployment at Home

May 13, 2020

As I may have already said, I’ve been reading George Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism. It’s a brilliant book, in which the great Fabian playwright attacks and exposes the contradictions, flaws, poverty and inequality in capitalism and argues for a gradual, socialist transformation of society through nationalisation and the equalisation of incomes. Although it was written between 1924 and 1928 some of the topics Shaw covers are still acutely relevant. He argues for the nationalisation of the banks because private bankers have caused massive financial problems and concentrate so much on big business that small businessmen and women suffer through lack of funds. He also shows how the extremely wealthy should have their incomes reduced, because instead of doing anything genuinely productive with their money they simply hoard it. And that means sending it overseas. This is an acute problem now, with the super-rich hoarding their money unspent in offshore tax havens, instead of properly paying their fair share to build up the country’s health service and infrastructure.

Shaw is also acutely critical of imperialism for the same reason. He is not against imperialism per se. Indeed, he states that it would be admirable if we really had taken over the different lands of the empire for the benefit of the indigenous peoples. But we hadn’t. We’d taken them over purely for the enrichment of the capitalists through the exploitation of their non-White inhabitants.

The process, according to Shaw, began with the arrival of a single British trading ship. This was fine on its own, but others also arrived. Soon a trading post was set up, and then the merchants behind the trade demanded the entire country’s annexation. Capitalism preferred to fund socially destructive enterprises, like gin, rather than the socially useful, like lighthouses, which had to be set up and managed by the government. The market for gin had been saturated, and so the capitalists had proceeded to look abroad for more profits for the gin trade. And once a country was conquered and incorporated into the empire, its Black inhabitants were forced into commercial labour unprotected by legislation, like the Factory Acts, that protected British workers.

These overworked, underpaid, exploited colonial workers were able to produce goods that undercut those of domestic, British manufacturers. As a result, British businesses were going bankrupt and British workers laid off, except for those in the service industries for the extremely wealthy. The great mill and factory towns of the north and midlands were declining in favour of places for the genteel rich, like Bournemouth.

Ordinary working people couldn’t starve, as the capitalist class had grudgingly allowed the establishment of the dole following the mass unemployment that followed the First World War. But there weren’t any jobs for them. This was why the British government was encouraging them to emigrate, promising to pay £12 of the £15 fare to Australia if the worker would provide £3 him- or herself.

Now Shaw’s description of the foundation and expansion of the empire is obviously over-simplified, but nevertheless contains more than a grain of truth. Both Fiji and New Zealand were annexed because they had suffered an influx of White settlers through trading ships. The people arguing for their annexation, however, did so because they were opposed to the indigenous peoples’ exploitation. The White settlers in Fiji were aiming to set up a government for Whites with an indigenous king, Cakobau, as puppet ruler to give it a spurious legitimacy. More enlightened colonists therefore persuaded Cadobau and his government to approach Britain and ask for annexation in order to prevent the dispossession and enslavement of indigenous Fijians. In New Zealand the request for annexation was made by Christian ministers, who were afraid that the country would be conquered for Roman Catholicism by France on the one hand, and that the whalers and other traders who had already settled there would destroy and exploit the Maoris through alcohol, prostitution and guns.

And the enslavement and exploitation of the indigenous peoples certainly occurred. Apart from enslavement and dispossession of the Amerindians and then Black Africans in the first phase of British imperialism from the 17th century to the end of the 18th, when the British empire expanded again from the early 19th century onward, it frequently did so under the pretext of destroying the slave trade. However, once we were in possession of those territories, indigenous slavery was frequently tolerated. Moreover, British colonists often used forced labour to build up their plantations and businesses. This occurred around about the time Shaw was writing in Malawi. When slavery was outlawed in the British empire in 1837, the planters replaced it with nominally free indentured Indian labourers, who were worked in conditions so atrocious in the notorious ‘coolie trade’ that it was denounced as ‘a new system of slavery’.

The British government had also been encouraging its poor and unemployed to emigrate to its colonies as well as the US in what historians call social imperialism from about the 1870s onwards.

Reading this passage, however, it struck me that the situation has changed somewhat in the last 90 or so years. Britain is no longer exporting its surplus labour. All the countries around the world now have strict policies regarding emigration, and the developed, White majority countries of Canada, New Zealand and Australia are busy taking in migrants from the developing world, like Britain and the rest of the West.

But the super rich have found a way to surreptitiously go back on their early policy of providing welfare benefits for the unemployed. Through the wretched welfare reforms introduced by Iain Duncan Smith and other Tory scumbags, they’ve torn holes in the welfare safety net with benefit sanctions, fitness to work tests and a five week waiting period. The result is that the unemployed and disabled are starving to death. And those that aren’t are frequently prevented from doing so only through food banks and private charity. This has been changed somewhat with the expansion of welfare payments for workers on furlough and food packages for the vulnerable during the lockdown, but this is intended only to be a temporary measure.

I can remember when globalisation first began in the 1990s. It was supposed to lead to a new era of peace and prosperity as capital moved from country to country to invest in businesses across the globe. But the result for Britain has been mass unemployment. And while developing nations like India have massively profited, it has been at the expense of their own working people, who are now labouring for lower pay and in worse conditions than ever.

The empire has gone to be replaced by the commonwealth. But what Shaw said about it and the exploitation and poverty it caused is true of today’s neoliberal global economy.

Except instead of encouraging emigration, the Tories and the rich have found ways to starve to death Britain’s surplus workers.

Riley’s Mates Oberman and Barber Smear Rachael of Swindon because She’s RT’d by Lineker

May 7, 2020

More anti-Semitism smearing and scumbaggery from Rachel Riley, Tracey Ann Oberman and Frances Barber. The internet commenter ‘Rachael Swindon’, or @rachael_swindon, her Twitter monicker, is Rachael Cousins, a firm supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. Her internet handle comes from the fact that she’s from the railway town in Wiltshire. According to a Buzzfeed article last year by disgraced FT hack Mark di Stefano, she and her husband are both currently unable to work due to their disabilities. Her husband has fibromyalgia, the same debilitating disease that afflicts Mrs Mike, and which can cause severe pain and fatigue. Swindon herself suffers from osteoarthritis in her legs. As well as supporting Corbyn, she also shares the former Labour leader’s support for the Palestinians. However, this does not mean that she is anti-Semite. She isn’t. It’s perfectly possible to support the country’s indigenous people – the Arabs – without hating Jews. Indeed, the pro-Palestinian organisation to which Tony Greenstein, a self-respecting secular Jew belongs, won’t accept real anti-Semites.

Unfortunately, this fact isn’t reported by the lamestream media, and for fanatical the fanatical supporters of Israel, any sympathy for the Palestinians means that someone must be a vicious anti-Semite. This even extends to left-wing Zionists. When a group of liberal Israelis said the Jewish prayer for the dead, the Kaddish, over dying civilians shot by the IDF last year after they broke out from Gaza, they were subjected to a hail of abuse from the ultra-Zionist right. And yesterday, Rachael Swindon was subjected to the same smearing for her support for the Palestinians by Riley, Oberman and Barber.

This was sparked off by a Tweet she’d put up about another 100 year old man, who like Captain Tom Moore, was also doing laps of his garden for charity. Unlike Captain Moore, he wasn’t White, and wasn’t getting the same amount of attention. Gary Lineker noticed this and retweeted it. And Riley’s mates, Barber and Oberman erupted into frothing ire. They called her Rachel Swindler, claimed that she led a Corbynite troll army to post anti-Semitic hate and abuse against Oberman, and compared her to David Icke.

Zelo Street in his article about this sordid piece of smearing and abuse states that it’s another example of the rich trying to silence the poor. He concludes

‘Rachael Cousins is political, opinionated, insistent, and yes, persistent. But she is not a “swindler”, she doesn’t have a “troll army”, she’s not racist, and not a hate merchant. Yet there are the well off, trying to have her erased from Twitter conversations.

She knew that when she gave BuzzFeed that interview. “I am a woman who has got a voice … They are trying to take that away from me”. Free speech is for everyone, whether you agree with their politics or not. Maybe Ms Cousins’ detractors should remember that.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/the-erasing-of-rachael-cousins.html

One of the ways Rachel Riley tries to silence her critics is by suing them for libel. At the moment she is pursuing Mike and two other people through the courts after they blogged and criticised her for the abuse she has poured on her critics, including calling them anti-Semites simply because they supported Jeremy Corbyn.

This nasty bit of jealousy and smearing by Riley’s friends coincidentally occurred at the same time I was reading Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism. First published in 1928, this the great Fabian playwright’s savage indictment of capitalism. It was written at the request of his sister-in-law, and obviously aimed at a female audience. It is directly addressed at the reader – he constantly refers to her using the second person, and the examples used to illustrate his argument are, as far as possible, female. I found it in one of the second hand book companies’ catalogues, and ordered it. Although it was written nearly a century ago – he first began it in 1924 – his arguments still have bite. And one of the many all-too relevant points he makes is how the rich use the law to their advantage against the poor simply because their wealth allows them to engage expensive lawyers that are well beyond the ability of the poor to afford. Shaw writes

The civil law by which contracts are enforced, and redress given for slanders and injuries that are not dealt with by the police, requires so much legal knowledge and artistic eloquence to set it in motion that an ordinary woman with no legal knowledge or eloquence can get the benefit of it only by employing lawyers whom she has to pay very highly, which means, of course, that the rich woman can afford to go to law and the poor woman cannot. The rich woman can terrorize the poor woman by threatening to go to law with her if her demands are not complied with. She can disregard the poor woman’s rights, and tell her that if she is satisfied she can take her complaint into court, knowing very well that her victim’s poverty and ignorance will prevent her from obtaining proper legal advice and protection. (p. 61).

This, in my opinion, exactly describes the behaviour of Riley and her besties Oberman and Barber. She has, however, got a surprise with Mike, as he has been able to crowdfund a defence against her suing him for libel. Mike had simply described how she had abused a sixteen year old school girl with anxiety as an anti-Semite, who then suffered a torrent of similar bullying from her followers and supporters. Riley doesn’t dispute the facts of this case, but nevertheless has accused Mike of libel. It’s important that Mike, and the others defending themselves against her, win in order to stop her abusing the law to silence reasonable criticism of her shabby, unreasonable behaviour.

If you are therefore willing and can afford it, you may wish therefore to make a donation to Mike’s crowdfunding campaign. Details are over at this website.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/

Despite the Fullsome Praise, BoJob Still Wants to Privatise the NHS

April 13, 2020

Yesterday the news reported that Boris had finally been discharged from hospital. He will not be starting work immediately, but has gone to Checkers to recuperate after his battle with Coronavirus. But before he did so, he gave fulsome to praise the hospital staff, including two nurses, who cared for him. The NHS, he made clear, had saved his life, and we would beat the Coronavirus because it was the beating heart of Britain.

I’m very glad Johnson has recovered. I don’t wish, or anyone else’s death, and I’m very glad that he is showing his sincere, genuine gratitude to the nursing staff and the great institution that has saved his life. He’s not the only Tory politico to owe his life to the NHS. Back in the 1980s the Fabian Society published a pamphlet arguing very forcefully against privatisation of the NHS, and made very telling comparisons about the US system, which is funded by individual insurance. The pamphlet quoted a Tory politician, who stated that the NHS had very definitely saved his life when he had suffered heart problems, and that there is no way he could have afforded such treatment in America.

But you’ll forgive me if I say that I found such praise coming from Boris a tad hypocritical and hollow. Right-wing governments since Thatcher – and that includes Tony Blair’s – have been doing their level best to privatise the NHS piecemeal by stealth. And the series of Tory governmental trainwrecks since Labour lost the 2010 election are no different. Cameron went on with the privatisation, passing Andrew Lansley’s wretched Health and Social Care Bill, which absolves the Health Secretary from his or her historic role of having to make sure that everyone has health care free at the point of use. NHS trusts and doctor’s surgeries, organised in Community Care Groups, are enabled and required to consider commissioning services from private healthcare companies. More and more contracts – it is now more than half – have been awarded to private healthcare companies. Despite the lies and smooth assurances to the opposite, this privatisation is for the private sector’s benefit, not ours. On its own, private healthcare can’t compete with that provided by the state. Private hospitals are smaller, and don’t offer the range of services the NHS provides. Private health insurance works well for the affluent, young and largely well, who don’t require long term or complicated treatment. It does not work for the old, the poor, the disabled or the long term sick. Which is why Lyndon Johnson had to introduce Medicare and Medicaid for those groups in the US. Despite this, 40,000 people still die through lack of affordable healthcare in the US, and the top cause of bankruptcies over there is medical costs.

But over here the Tory drive for privatisation continues. I noticed a Torygraph headline reproduced on one the blogs, which very graphically showed this. This proclaimed that it was due to the NHS’ cumbrous bureaucracy that PPE equipment weren’t getting to NHS staff. The Tories have been very keen to tell everyone that introducing the private sector is going to cut bureaucracy. And this is another example of the truth being the direct opposite of anything Johnson, Cummings and any other Tory will tell you. The Tories’ privatisation has actually increased the bureaucracy through setting up organs within the NHS to ensure competition and value for money. Also private healthcare firms have larger management bureaucracies that the NHS. In extreme cases, these can account for 40 per cent of the companies operating costs. But there were over 100 MPs in Cameron’s government, who had connections to private healthcare firms. And so, despite rising costs and inefficiencies, it’s immensely profitable to them and the heads of those companies.

Treatment by the NHS is supposed to be free at the point of use, but the Tories have been introducing charges, or expanding the range of services for which charges may be made. One of those supporting this move is Jacob Rees-Mogg.

But despite their determination to sell it off, the Tories give their unstinting praise to it. One recent Tory health secretary even declared that they ‘treasured it’. This was after the fact it was revealed that he, or one of the other Tory MPs, had written a book advocating the incorporation of private healthcare into the NHS to such an extent that the NHS would cease to exist. Which is privatisation.

With this in mind, I see absolutely no reason to take Johnson’s praise at anything like face value. No, I don’t deny he’s grateful – now. But this gratitude will wear off a soon as he steps back through the doors of No.10 and starts listening once again to his Tory friends and fellows, and although the advisers that have trooped into government from private industry.

Then, whatever Johnson said yesterday, he’ll go back to privatising the NHS.

So no one else will be able to get treatment for a disease like Coronavirus without paying for it. And heaven help the poor if they can’t.

Desperate Tories Start Lying about Building the Health Service

October 1, 2019

Boris Johnson and his odious chums must be feeling the pressure from Corbyn and Labour, as they’ve reverted to doing what they always do in a tight squeeze: start lying about how they’re really good for the NHS. Right at the start of the Tory conference, one of the candidate claimed that they founded it. Oh no, they didn’t! Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece demolishing this porkie. He pointed out that when Labour put the bill founding the NHS to parliament, they claimed to welcome it, but then sought to deny it a third reading. The reason?

It “discourages voluntary effort and association; mutilates the structure of local governent; dangerously increases Ministerial power and patronage; appropriates trust funds and benefactions in contempt of the wishes of donors and subscribers; and undermines the freedom and independence of the medical profession to the detriment of the nation”.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/29/tory-nhs-claims-are-a-poor-attempt-to-patch-up-the-dirty-open-wound-that-is-their-record/

Mike comments

Even that was a lie. Healthcare before the NHS was a nightmare for working people. Read the books of Harry Leslie Smith for information on the way a private health system fails to work. That was a hindrance to the nation.

I’ve put up many posts myself on this blog pointing out how poor healthcare was for ordinary working people before the introduction of the NHS. There were hospitals run by local authorities, but these varied enormously in the quality of care. There were also charity hospitals as well as the fully private. However, the charity hospitals relied heavily on donations and so spent much of their time trying to raise cash, and care in them was also frequently poor. Doctors were outside the system of minimal state provision, and so charged fees. After the Liberals came to power there was a system of state insurance available to pay the medical bills of some, but not all types of worker. The result was that there were millions, who were not covered by any type of insurance. Many people simply could not afford medical treatment.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the Tories try to claim to they invented the NHS, or supported it. They tried it again under Jeremy Hunt a few years ago. And that was also a lie. The NHS was first proposed by Lord Beveridge, a Liberal peer, and put into action and ardently supported by Labour under Clement Atlee and the awesome Nye Bevan. It’s ultimate ancestry goes back to Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s minority report on healthcare provision in Britain right at the start of the 20th century, which recommended a comprehensive system of state healthcare. In the 1930s the Socialist Medical Society, the Fabian Society, now sadly riddled with Blairites, and the Labour party all demanded the establishment of a system of state medical care.

I have had Tories turn up on this blog arguing that Churchill and the Tories were as in favour of the NHS as anyone else, but that they voted against it because it wasn’t costed properly for some reason. Just as Clement Atlee didn’t initially vote for it. Now it’s true that some Labour figures didn’t vote for the NHS initially, as you can see in the lists of those who did given in a book attacking the Tories for blocking the NHS, published by the Left Book Club. But the above statement by the Tories attacking the embryonic NHS and defending a system of largely private healthcare that left millions in grinding poverty with no chance of any proper medical provision refutes this nonsense. And in case there’s any doubt of the Tories’ attitude towards the NHS, a few years after its foundation, in the early 1950s the Tory right tried to have it abolished on the grounds that it was too expensive.

And where have we heard that one before? Oh yes, from Maggie Thatcher, Dave Cameron, Tweezer and the rest of them, all arguing that the introduction of private medicine into the NHS will make it cheaper and more efficient. Only it doesn’t. It makes it more expensive. Hospitals under the Private Finance Initiative are more expensive and have fewer beds than hospitals build using direct state funds. PFI is a fraud, and merely a way-station on the road to the complete privatisation of the NHS. As Mike blogged a few days ago, it’s now saddled the NHS with a debt £50bn, which will probably be closer to £80bn when the debts come to an end in the 2030s. Yes, Labour massively increased the use PFI contracts as part of Blair’s ‘Third Way’. But it was introduced by Peter Lilley under John Major as a deliberate way of opening up the NHS to private industry.

Yes, the NHS has PFI debts – but put the blame where it’s due… on the TORIES

The Tories, or at least some of them, have always wanted to privatise the NHS, because they hate the idea of working people receiving free healthcare at the point of need and service.

And then a few days ago, Boris announced that he was going to be build 40 spanking new hospitals. Except that he won’t. According to the Sage of Crewe on Zelo Street, the greatest number of hospitals that will get built are six. When questioned about the number by Andrew Marr on his show, Bozo blustered that he had a long-term infrastructure plan, and there was seed funding for these hospitals. Zelo Street pointed out that his ‘long-term infrastructure plan is just a rip-off of Cameron’s ‘long term economic plan’. And the seed funding means that while the government pays of securing the land, legal work and ensuring access. someone else will actually have to build them. Yes, it the PFI once again.

‘That sounds like either the PFI that began under John Major, was carried on by Tone and Pa Broon, and even though Cameron and Osborne slagged it off, they did it too – or it means someone else will own and run the hospitals – not necessarily the NHS.

Bozo just confirmed what we already knew – you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/09/tories-40-new-hospitals-arent.html

And the Skwawkbox also reminded people of the last time the Tories started lying about the NHS when an election was looming.

This was in the run-up to the elections that allowed the Tory-Lib Dem coalition to seize power, c. 2008 or so. Cameron was claiming to defend the NHS from Blair’s cuts. He and IDS very ostentatiously set about a campaign against hospital closures. When the Gruesome Twosome of Cameron and Clegg got in, of course, that campaign suddenly vanished. And it was back to cuts and hospital closures as normal.

For a reminder, see the Skwawkbox article at: https://skwawkbox.org/2019/09/29/166-reasons-closures-not-to-trust-a-word-boris-johnson-says-about-the-nhs/

This also reveals that the Tories have closed down 166 mostly maternity and A&E units, and closed down another 100 NHS walk-in centres.

These closures are presented as local decisions, but the Skwawkbox shows that it is the result of sham consultations and a central plan to cut costs. As for the six hospitals BoJo claims will be built, they aren’t new either. And some of them aren’t even fully fledged hospitals. One will actually take patients and beds from another hospital, resulting in even less care for local people.

The Skwawkbox comments on the Tory lies:

Boris Johnson’s lips will be moving today. Don’t believe a word that comes out of them.

There is only one party with safe hands for the NHS: Labour.

Absolutely.

Thatcherite Labour MPs Once Again Threatening to Quit Party

February 5, 2019

Another week, Labour ahead of the Tories once again in most polls, except those the Beeb and the rest of the lamestream media pay attention to, and once again the Blairites in the party are threatening to leave. According to yesterday’s and today’s papers, it’s all about the anti-Semitism, you see. Again. I caught a glimpse of the Beeb’s news today, and it showed the far-right islamophobic hate group, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism once again camped outside parliament, or Labour HQ, waving their lying placards against ‘anti-Semitism’. While inside parliament, the Thatcherite entryists were all ready to up sticks and leave if Jenny Formby doesn’t satisfy them that enough is being done to tackle anti-Semitism.

But this isn’t about anti-Semitism. Never has been. And the row erupted long before Corbyn was elected leader of the party. On Sunday, when the threats were first made, Mike put up a piece reproducing the Tweets of CremantCommunarde, who showed very clearly that it all blew up when the Jewish Ed Miliband was leader of the Labour party. He was accused of anti-Semitism, despite his Jewish heritage and conspicuous absence of genuine Jew-hatred, because he had dared to recognize Palestine as an independent state. Veteran actress Maureen Lipman left the party in disgust. Just as she claimed to have left the party in disgust last year because Corbyn is an anti-Semite. Except that he isn’t, and has worked tirelessly to counter all forms of racism, including genuine anti-Semitism. Being pro-Palestine does not mean hating Jews, or even Israelis. It means attacking a bigoted, racist state imposing apartheid and a slow genocide on the indigenous population. A state that was set up as part of imperialist machinations by us and then maintained and supported for geopolitical reasons to maintain western, US and UK, dominance in the region.

See Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/03/labour-leaders-challenged-over-anti-semitism-again-but-will-the-accusers-accept-the-facts/

As for the people angrily denouncing anti-Semitism in the Labour party, their true moral stature is shown by their own actions. Former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks a few years ago led a contingent of British Jews to Jerusalem to participate in the March of the Flags. This is an ultra-nationalist occasion where right-wing Jewish Israeli thugs parade through the Muslim quarter of the Holy City vandalizing Palestinian property and threatening and intimidating its people. The same people claiming Corbyn is the next thing to Adolf Hitler included the kind of people one Jewish Israeli scholar called ‘Judaeonazis’. Like the couple who decided that they would show their racial tolerance by wearing T-shirts with the symbol of a banned Fascist Israeli terrorist group, Kach. As well as members of the Jewish Defence League and other Zionists, who mix easily and unashamedly with the EDL and various unsavoury characters from Britain First. The kind of people who, if they were not Jews and not connected with Israel, would automatically be denounced by everyone as Fascists and Nazis.

And now the Blairites are trying to use the pretext that Labour is riddled with genuine Jew-haters to threaten once again to split the party and leave. Just like the ‘Chicken Coup’ plotters threatened to do a few years ago. And then again a little later, when the media reported that they would leave the party to join a new centrist, pro-EU party that was being formed. A party that boasted the backing of millionaire corporate donors. An exciting new party that has since fizzled out and vanished without a trace.

But never mind! We are reliably informed by a corrupt, mendacious media, that there are more than six right-wing Labour MPs ready to depart. And Vince Cable is hoping they’ll come over and join his gang of morally corrupt corporatists and sell-outs in the Lib Dems.

The right-wing Labour MPs supposedly ready to depart aren’t really upset because they honestly believe that Corbyn’s an anti-Semite. They’re upset because they’re Blairites, Thatcherite entryists, who believe in continuing her poisonous, destructive policies of privatization, outsourcing, the destruction of the welfare state, and selling the NHS off to private healthcare firms. And destroying the trade unions in the name of creating a cowed workforce ready to accept any kind of work, no matter how ill-paid or precarious. A party so enamoured of the corporate elite that they eagerly took their donations and then gave the chairmen of these companies and senior management positions in government. All in the name of creating a properly business-friendly environment, introducing the alleged greater expertise and efficiency of private industry, creating a fluid labour market. And generally rewarding the corporate elite, who also offered them not just donations but nice, lucrative places on their boards when they left office.

Corbyn threatens all that, because he believes in a genuinely socialist Labour party, overseeing a mixed economy where the utilities, including the railways and water industry. A Britain whose working people are properly served by strong unions and have job security and rights at work from day one. A Britain whose poor are supported by decent benefits, where the jobless don’t have to wait weeks or months for welfare payments, and where a quarter of a million people aren’t forced to use food banks to stop themselves from starving in misery. A Britain where the disabled aren’t deprived of the support they need because they’ve been found ‘fit for work’ by a rigged system of tests, based on pseudo-scientific bogus theories. In other words, everything that threatens the Tories’ and Blair’s precious, poisonous Thatcher revolution.

That’s really why the Blairites have been trying to undermine Corbyn from day one. It’s why the press and people like Joan Ryan have been sneering at him and his supporters as Trotskyites, Communists and Stalinists, and why they are so desperate to claim that he’s unpopular and that he’ll never get elected by the general public. Because he threatens the Blairite policy of taking over the ideology and policies of the Tory party. Because they’re scared that he will get elected, and the Thatcherite policies they admire uncritically will be consigned to the dustbin.

I’ve had enough of their constant attempts to undermine a democratically elected and popular leader, as well as their disdain and contempt for the party’s grassroots and this country’s working people as a whole. I’m sick of them constantly threatening to leave, only to stay in the party to threaten to leave again later, whenever they feel they can do the most damage. Or whenever they think anyone will back them. I just now want them to go. They’re Conservatives anyway, and really don’t have any place in a party that genuinely supports working people instead of the corporate elite.

But as Mike has pointed out on his blog, they won’t. Because the moment they resign the party whip, their constituents will vote against them at the next election. And so they’re determined to hang on, all the while fraudulently claiming that they’re the really Labour party and whining about ‘Labour values’. They aren’t really Labour, and the party’s real values go back to Clement Attlee, Keir Hardie, Nye Bevan and the Webbs and Fabians. Genuine socialists, whose achievements Blair and his cronies have done their best to destroy.

They should now either leave for good, or shut up and support their leader. But whatever they do, it’s going to be glaringly clear to an increasing number of people that, despite their lies, they’re not interested in anti-Semitism. They’re only using it as ploy to destroy Corbyn for the same reasons as the press and the Tories they claim to want to defeat electorally.

Don’t Be Mislead, May and the Tories Are Still Determined to Destroy the NHS

January 8, 2019

Okay, the papers today have been full of the plan May announced yesterday that would improve the NHS over the next ten years. Apparently they’re going to increase funding by 20 billion pounds above inflation by 2023, recruiting tens of thousands of new nurses and doctors.

Mike today posted a piece ripping apart these promises. He makes the point that the Tories haven’t fulfilled their existing targets to recruit more medical staff. They have also not stated where they intend to fund the money to pump into the NHS.

More sinisterly, one key part of the programme discussed by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock in an interview with Sophy Ridge sounded like the government is planning to blame poor health on the patients themselves. Hancock said in the interview that the government intended to shift towards helping people to stay health, to stop them getting ill as much as curing them.

Mike makes the point that this sound very much like the claims that the DWP helps people by refusing them benefit. He’s right. I think there has already been discussion of schemes whereby obese people should be refused medical treatment for diseases or conditions brought on by the condition.

Mike also makes the point that the fundamental problem of the Tories’ NHS policy is continuing regardless of their new plans. This is the privatization of the health service. Mike writes

As for privatisation – with more than £8 billion spent on private companies that have been allowed to buy into the NHS by the Conservatives since 2012, concern is high that the whole service in England is being primed for sale, to be replaced with a private insurance-based system, as poor as the schemes currently failing the citizens of the United States. These fears are supported by the fact that current NHS boss Simon Stevens used to work for a US-based health profiteer.

This new 10-year plan, it seems, is setting out to do exactly what Noam Chomsky described when discussing the steps leading to privatisation: Strip the service of funds, make sure it doesn’t work properly, wait for people to complain, and then sell it to private profit-making firms with a claim that this will improve the service.

He makes the case that the NHS will be treated exactly as the other privatized utilities – energy companies, railways, water industry and airports – stripped of funds, sold off, and owned by foreign firms to provide them with profits.

This also is true. Private Eye has reported how the Tories and New Labour were lobbied by private healthcare providers determined to gain access to the NHS, including the American private healthcare insurance fraudster, Unum.

He concludes

So you can look forward to a future in which you are blamed for any health problem that arises, and forced to pay through the nose for health insurance (that probably won’t cover your needs or won’t pay out at all, to judge by the American system).

It seems the Tories’ 10-year plan for the NHS is to trick you into an early grave.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/08/new-tory-nhs-plan-is-to-tell-you-your-health-problems-are-your-fault/

The Tories have been determined to privatise the NHS since the days of Margaret Thatcher. She wanted to privatise it completely, but was stopped by a cabinet revolt. She nevertheless wanted to encourage Brits to take out private health insurance and began cutting and privatizing NHS services. This was continued under John Major by Peter Lilley, who invented the Private Finance Initiative in order to help private corporations gain access to the NHS. It carried on and was expanded even further by Blair and New Labour, and has been taken over and further increased by the Tories since the election of Cameron back in 2010.

If it continues, the NHS will be privatized, and the quality of Britain’s healthcare will be what is in the US: appalling. The leading cause of bankruptcy in America is inability to pay medical costs. Something like 20 per cent of the US population is unable to afford private medical insurance. 45,000 people a year die because they cannot afford healthcare treatment.

A year or so ago a Conservative commenter to this blog tried to argue that the Labour party had not established the Health Service and that the Tories were also in favour of it. Now it is true that the welfare state, including the NHS, was based on the Beveridge Report of 1944. Beveridge was a Liberal, and his report was based on the information and views he had been given in turn by civil servants and other professionals. But the Health Service itself was set up by Aneirin Bevan in Clement Attlee 1945 Labour government. The Health Service’s ultimate origins lay in the 1906 Minority Report into reform of the existing healthcare services by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. The Socialist Medical Society had been demanding a nationalized system of healthcare in the 1930s, as had the Fabian Society, and this had become Labour policy in that decade. And later in the 1950s, after the NHS had been established, the Tory right again demanded its privatization on the grounds that it was supposedly too expensive. Even now this is the attitude of right-wing historians and politicians, like Corelli Barnet, who has said that the reason why Britain was unable to modernize its industry after the War like the Germans or French was because the money went instead to the NHS.

The same commenter also claimed that Britain never had a private healthcare system. This is untrue. Many hospitals were run by local councils, but there were also private charity and voluntary hospitals. And these did charge for their services.

I’ve put up pieces before about how terrible healthcare was in Britain before the NHS. Here’s another passage about the state of healthcare for Britain’s working class between the First and Second World Wars, from Eric Hopkins’ The Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes 1918-1990: A Social History (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1991)

The health services between the wars were still in a rudimentary state. Insurance against sickness was compulsory for all workers earning less than 160 per annum under the National Insurance Act of 1911 but the scheme did not cover the dependants of the insured, and sickness benefits when away from work were still lower than unemployment rates. Further, the range of benefits was limited, and hospital treatment was not free unless provided in poor law infirmaries. Treatment in municipal hospitals or voluntarily run hospitals still had to be paid for. The health service was run not by the Ministry of Health, but by approved societies, in practice mostly insurance societies. As a system, it suffered from administrative weaknesses and duplication of effort, and the Royal Commission on National Health Insurance 1926 recommended that the system be reformed; the Minority Report even recommended that the administration of the system be removed from the societies altogether. In 1929 the Local Government Act allowed local authorities to take over the poor law infirmaries, and to run them as municipal hospitals. Not many did so, and by 1939 about half of all public hospital services were still provided by the poor law infirmaries. By that year, it would be fair to say that there was something resembling a national health service for the working classes, but it was still very limited in scope (it might or might not include dental treatment, depending on the society concerned), and although treatment by general practitioners was free for those by the scheme, as we have seen, hospital treatment might have to be paid for. (pp. 25-6).

This what the Tories and the Blairites in New Labour wish to push us back to, although looking at that description in seems that even this amount of government provision of healthcare is too much for those wishing to privatise it completely.

The Tories’ claim to support and ‘treasure’ the NHS are lies. May is a liar, and has already lied about putting money into the NHS. I remember how She claimed that they were going to increase funding, while at the same time stating that the NHS would still be subject to cuts. And I don’t doubt that she intends to take this plan anymore seriously. It doesn’t mean anything. Look how she declared that austerity had ended, only to carry on pursuing austerity.

Defend the NHS. Get Tweezer and the Tories out, and Corbyn and Labour in.

The Spanish Civil War and the Real Origins of Orwell’s Anti-Communism

January 2, 2019

Orwell’s 1984 is one of the very greatest classic dystopian novels depicting a bleak future in which the state has nearly absolute, total control. It’s particularly impressed Russians and others, who lived through and criticized Stalinism. Some of these have expressed amazement at how Orwell could have written the book without actually experiencing the horrific reality of Stalin’s USSR for himself. After the War, Orwell became a snitch for MI5 providing the agency with information on the suspected Communists. It’s a sordid part of his brilliant career as an anti-imperialist, socialist writer and activist. Conservatives have naturally seized on Orwell’s 1984, and the earlier satire, Animal Farm, to argue that the great writer had become so profoundly disillusioned that he had abandoned socialism altogether to become a fierce critic of it.

This is unlikely, as the previous year Orwell had written The Lion and the Unicorn, subtitled Socialism and the English. This examined English identity, and argued that for socialism to win in England, it had to adapt to British traditions and the English national character. But it didn’t reject socialism. Instead, it looked forward to a socialist victory and a socialist revolution, but one that would be so in keeping with English nationhood that some would wonder if there had been a revolution at all. He believed this would come about through the increasing blurring of class lines, and pointed to the emergence of a class of people occupying suburban council housing, who could not be easily defined as either working or middle class.

This view of the necessity of developing of a particularly British, English variety of socialism was one of the fundamental assumptions of the Fabians. They said in the History of the society that

‘Fabian Essays’ presented the case for Socialism in plain language which everybody could understand. It based Socialism, not on the speculations of a German philosopher, but on the obvious evolution of society as we see it around us. It accepted economic science as taught by the accredited British professors; it built up the edifice of Socialism on the foundations of our existing political and social institutions; it proved that Socialism was but the next step in the development of society, rendered inevitable by the changes which followed from the industrial revolution of the eighteenth century.

In Lane W. Lancaster, Masters of Political Thought, Vol. 3, Hegel to Dewey (London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd 1959) 309.

George Bernard Shaw, in his paper ‘The Transition to Social Democracy’, also stressed that the movement towards socialism was a proper part of general developments in British society. He wrote of the Fabian programme

There is not one new item in it. All are applications of principles already in full activity. All have on them that stamp of the vestry which is so congenial to the British mind. None of them compel the use of the words Socialism or Evolution; at no point do they involve guillotining, declaring the Rights of Man, swearing on the alter of the country, or anything else that is supposed to be essentially un-English. And they are all sure to come – landmarks on our course already visible to far-sighted politicians even of the party that dreads them.

Lancaster, op. cit., p. 316.

Shaw was right, and continues to be right. Thatcher wanted to privatise everything because she was afraid of the ‘ratcheting down’ of increasing nationalization, and believed this would result in the gradual emergence of a completely socialized British economy. And the fact that so much British socialism was based on British rather than continental traditions may also explain why Conservatives spend so much of their effort trying to persuade the public that that Socialists, or at least the Labour left, are all agents of Moscow.

It appears to me that what turned Orwell into an anti-Communist was seeing the Communist party abandon its socialist allies and attack their achievements under Stalin’s orders in the Spanish Civil War. The Trotskyite writer Ernest Mandel discusses this betrayal in his From Stalinism to Eurocommunism (New York: Schocken Books 1978).

The switch to a defence of the bourgeois state and the social status quo in the ‘democratic’ imperialist countries – which implied the defence of private property in the event of severe social crisis and national defence in the event of imperialist war – was made officially by the Seventh Congress of the Comintern. It had been preceded by an initial turn in this direction by the French Communist Party (PCF) when the Stalin-Laval military pact was signed. The clearest reflection of this turn was the Popular Front policy; its most radical effects came with the application of this policy during the Spanish Civil War. In Spain, the Communist Party made itself the most determined, consistent and bloody defender of the reestablishment of the bourgeois order against the collectivisations spontaneously effected by the workers and poor peasants of the Republic and against the organs of power created by the proletariat, particularly the committees and militias, which had inflicted a decisive defeat on the miltaro-fascist insurgents in nearly all the large cities of the country in July 1936. (p. 18).

Others have also pointed out that the nightmare world of 1984 is a depiction of a revolution that has taken the wrong turn, not one that has failed, which is another tactic adopted by Conservative propagandists. Orwell was greatly impressed by the achievements of the Spanish anarchists, and anarchism is highly critical of state socialism and particularly the USSR.

It thus seems to me that what Orwell attacked in Animal Farm and 1984 was not socialism as such, but its usurpation and abuse by bitterly intolerant, repressive groups like the Bolsheviks. It was a view partly based by what he had seen in Spain, and would no doubt have been reinforced by his awareness of the way Stalin had also rounded up, imprisoned and shot socialist dissidents in the USSR. Orwell was probably anti-Communist, not anti-Socialist.