Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Brown’

BBc Drama about Fascist Radicalisation of Deprived White Youth

July 4, 2019

Next week’s Radio Times also says that next Wednesday, 10th July 2019, there’s a drama, The Left Behind, on BBC 1 at 10.35 pm after the news about young White men drawn into Fascism. The play’s set in an unnamed Welsh town, and is about a working class lad, Gethin, who becomes increasingly radicalised as his life collapses through poverty. The blurb for it on page 78 of the magazine runs

Factual drama from the Bafta award-winning team behind Killed by My Debt and Murdered by My Boyfriend. Gethin is a working-class teenager in a south Wales town with no secure job, housing or future. As he seeks solace online, he is increasingly attracted to anti-immigrant sentiment as a way of explaining why he’s been “left behind” in his own country.

The additional piece about it by Alison Graham on page 77 runs

Gethin is a nice lad, part of a fractured family, but he is close to his sister and niece. He has a handful of good mates and not much of a job – he’s on a zero-hours contract in a fast food takeaway shop.

But the fates conspire to send Gethin (Sion Daniel Young, who is excellent) completely off the rails as the fragile thread that hold his life together unravel and snap, leading to tragedy.

The Left Behind looks at the rise of far-right extremism in the poorer parts of Britain through the prism of Gethin, a young man looking for easy targets who blames outsider for robbing him of everything worthwhile.

The mag also has a feature about the programme on pages 20-21 by Claire Webb, pointing out the working class roots of the play’s author, Alan Harris. Harris’ parents were forced to sell their house in Tonteg, near Cardiff, when he was a child, and he grew up in a caravan on his grandfather’s smallholding. After he graduated, he had a series of poorly-paid jobs, including selling Santa hats in the street and working in a car park. He was also homeless for a time, sleeping on friends sofas or in their spare rooms. He got his break into theatre after training as a journalist and submitting scripts to a theatre group encouraging new writers. The article quotes him as saying ‘We don’t see honest stories of White working class men.’ It also states that he spent a lot of time talking to people using food banks and a community centre in one of Cardiff’s most deprived suburbs. He says

“They told me people feel powerless,” he says. “It is a case of being left behind, but it’s also a case of being left out. There are a lot of people in the UK who have no hope of progressing, and once hope is gone, a wedge is driven between different sections of our society and extremism is very good at exploiting that wedge. Online radicalisation does that well: it turns personal problems into a crusade.”

The article contains the chilling statistic that in 2018 there was a 36% increase in the number of far-right extremists referred to the government’s Prevent programme. Harris spoke to a counterterrorism expert working on the programme as part of his research. It says he was frightened by how quickly people can become radicalised, and how the far-right organisations have smartened up their act.

“These are well organised, respectable-looking organisations,” he explains. “They don’t turn up in red braces with a skinhead. They turn up in a suit with a much more professional attitude. They realised that the old model wasn’t working from a recruiting point of view.”

The article also states that these organisations’ supporters are concentrated in Britain’s post-industrial towns and cities, which is why the drama’s producers set in south Wales.

To the possible objection that the programme is a sympathetic treatment of a violent extremist, Harris replies that we need to under where they’re coming from if we are to tackle domestic terrorism.

“Society tries to ignore these things but they’re happening, whether we like it or not. Understanding these people is a movement towards making society better.”

For one scene, in which a chipper councillor is confronted by residents angry at the lack of social housing, the producers used working class extras drawn from that area, and asked them to improvise. And their raw, pent up anger exploded. They ripped the councillor to shreds to the point where Harris felt sorry for the actor.

Asked if he was apprehensive that Cardiff’s working class communities would be offended by the drama, Harris replies

“Not at all. I think it’s a good thing to shine a light on the problems that some people experience. Hopefully those issues of housing, of employment, will ring true with a lot of people from Cardiff and the surrounding area. Hopefully it’s bits of their lives reflected back at them. I don’t have all the answers, but at least we can ask questions.”

While this isn’t a programme I can I’d like to watch, it does seem to be an honest attempt to grapple with the underlying issues behind the far-right’s attempts to reach out and recruit disenfranchised working class Whites. But the responsibility for the growth in racism goes far beyond the Fascist right itself, right to the heart of the neoliberal establishment. At one level, the Nazis are only building on the extreme nationalism and racism that’s been pushed for decades by the Tories and the Tory press – the Scum and the Heil are two notorious examples. But it also includes the supposedly more upmarket Spectator, which, as the Sage of Crewe has pointed out, employs the anti-Semitic Taki and is increasingly Alt Right.

And among the causes of the growth of Fascism in this country is Blair and the New Labour project. Blair abandoned socialism and the party’s traditional working class base to appeal instead to Tory swing voters. They fully embraced and participated in the destruction of the NHS and the welfare state, with Gordon Brown particularly enthusiastic about encouraging a flexible job market. In other words, job insecurity. And Tony Greenstein has repeatedly pointed out how hollow and non-existent are the Blairites’ attempts to deal with Fascism. Margaret Hodge, now the darling of the anti-Semitism smear merchants, was so negligent in her treatment of the growth of Fascism in her constituency, that the BNP actually sent her flowers when seven of their stormtroopers were elected on to Tower Hamlets local council. As for Tom Watson, he was a friend of Phil Woolas, a New Labour politico, who ran a very racist campaign against a Lib Dem opponent, claiming that he was soft on immigration and encouraged Muslim radicalisation. Woolas said that his campaign was about getting White men angry. And David Rosenberg on his blog warned that the anti-Semitism witchhunt was designed to purge the Labour movement of genuine Left-wingers and anti-racists, and that this was damaging real opposition to Fascism in working class communities. The witchhunt and Blairism meant that recent anti-racist counterprotests were, for the first time, outnumbered by the Fascists. And to add insult to injury, the Nazis chanted ‘Anti-Semites! Anti-Semites!’ at their genuinely anti-racist opponents. Rosenberg has shown repeatedly on his blog how proper campaigning in working class communities, by socialists determined to give working people better opportunities and conditions, will devastate Fascist organisations by depriving them of the real, social and economic issues they exploit to misdirect rightly angry Whites into hating Blacks, Asians and other ethnic minorities.

The play looks like a good, honest account to deal with the growth in working class racism by showing that it is partly caused by the real despair in these communities at their poor and declining conditions. And tackling those and combating Fascism means attacking and combating the Tories and New Labour, who have caused them and seek to exploit the anger they’ve caused in turn by scapegoating ethnic minorities.

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Fake Labour Margaret Hodge Reveals Real Reasons for Attacking Corbyn: Thatcherism

July 1, 2019

Nearly three weeks ago Margaret Hodge, the Blairite MP for Barking, opened her mouth and let the cat out the bag, revealing the real reasons she and the rest of the Thatcherite entryists in the party want their leader gone. And it has zilch to do with anti-Semitism. The real reason she and the other Blairites loathe and detest him and his supporters is because, like the rest of the political and media establishment, they’re neoliberals. They believe utterly that socialism is dead, that there is no point challenging the right-wing media, and that there has to be more privatisation, because private enterprise is always superior to state-run industries, even when, in the case of the railways, the utilities and the NHS, it very obviously isn’t.

They also despise the working people, whom they claim to represent. Blair, Mandelson, Brown and the rest of the shabby bunch concentrated on winning over swing voters, who could also vote Tory. Hence they stole the Tories’ policies, got Murdoch and sections of the right-wing media to back them, and even tried ingratiating themselves with the Daily Heil. They believed, like the Tories, that the unions were an obstacle that had to be crushed, and that a large proportion of those claiming benefit were malingerers and scroungers. And so they inflicted the Work Capability Tests on the disabled, and continued to make signing on for unemployment benefit, or Jobseeker’s Allowance, as it’s become, as hard and humiliating as possible.

And all the while they continued to suck up to the rich, offering businessmen and senior executives places in government, in return for donations to the party.

This was, according to Blair and the rest of the establishment, a post-ideological age. By which they mean post-socialist. Thatcher’s policies had to be introduced into the Labour party for it to compete with the Tories. Because, as Thatcher herself said ad nauseam, ‘There Is No Alternative’.

And Hodge revealed she believed this nonsense absolutely when she claimed that Corbyn pledges to nationalise the railways, water and part of the electricity grid, end the privatisation of the NHS, restore the unions, and give working people greater rights at work, job security, proper wages and a strong welfare state, was simply offering them bribes. She said

“I want to lay the party that brings honesty into our politics. What we’ve got, if we do have anything, is a whole range of unrealistic promises, whether it’s on reversing all the cuts of the last decade, whether it’s on promising that we’ll do away with tuition fees, those are promises that will not be fulfilled. And that unrealism, those sorts of bribes, actually in my view, in an era of scepticism, simply against policies or politics is not the way to win election”.

In his post about this revealing outburst from Hodge, Zelo Street commented

There you have it: in Hodge world, you’re only going to get elected by shrugging your shoulders and leaving all the homeless out on the streets, leaving Universal Credit in place, leaving the NHS in an increasingly parlous state, and yes, leaving millions of poor people to their fate.

Absolutely. And it’s not just Hodge, who to my mind looks like an alien from Dr. Who with one of the bizarre hairdos Mrs. Slocombe used to sport in the classic Beeb comedy, Are You Being Served?. What she’s articulated is what passes for realism amongst the Blairites. Because Thatcher said so.

Margaret Hodge                                                  Alien

Zelo Street also mentioned that she demonstrated last year that the attacks on Corbyn had precious little to do with anti-Semitism, when the Groan reported that she “has signalled that Labour MPs critical of Jeremy Corbyn are digging in for a long struggle against his leadership as she suggested that the antisemitism row would only end if he stood aside”.

Needless to say, real Labour activists and supporters weren’t remotely impressed. The Sage of Crewe gave examples of their reaction to Hodge’s repugnant views on Twitter. Matt Turner’s comment, apparently, was typical.

“Can anyone, in all honesty, tell me why the hell Margaret Hodge is in the labour party? Sitting on her £70+k a year plus expenses and having the audacity to say reversing austerity is somehow a bribe? She’s not the one dying on the street struggling to feed her children”

And Eric the Socialist asked the reasonable question how she could still be in the Labour party campaigning on a platform in which she didn’t believe.

“Margaret Hodge has left labour. Right? Surely she can’t say her own party are trying to bribe the electorate with unrealistic policies AND still be in the Labour party?”

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/06/margaret-hodge-its-not-bribe.html

I am therefore not remotely surprised that she was one of the 118 Labour MPs, who shamefully demanded Chris Williamson’s re-suspension as an ‘anti-Semite’. This has absolutely nothing to do with real anti-Semitism, and everything to do with attacking a key Corbyn ally. Someone who actually wants to return the party to its socialist and working class roots, and do something for the people she and the rest of the Blairites despise.

And as for Hodge’s opposition to anti-Semitism, she did so little to combat the BNP in her constituency, that when they seven seats on Tower Hamlet’s council, I believe they actually sent her a bouquet of flowers.

Margaret Hodge: BNP Approved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boris Johnson – A Racist Candidate for a Racist Party

June 21, 2019

A few days ago, Ian Blackford, an SNP MP caused an uproar in parliament by having the temerity to call Johnson what he is, and say what a very large number of the British public are thinking and saying: that Johnson is a racist. He cited a poem Johnson had published in the Spectator when he was its editor, about how a giant wall should be built around Scotland and the gates closed to turn it into a giant ghetto, who inhabitants should be exterminated. He mentioned again Johnson’s infamous comments about Black Africans, describing African children as ‘grinning pickanninies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’, as well as his infamous Torygraph article attacking the burka. He described those women, who chose to wear it as looking like letterboxes or bin bags. This caused a storm of outrage from the Tories, who accused Blackford of unparliamentary conduct and Blackford did get a caution from Bercow as a result. But as Mike showed today on an article in his blog, very many ordinary Brits on Twitter agree with Blackford. Johnson is a racist, and indeed, so is his party. This was also made very clear by a post about Johnson and his noxious racism on Zelo Street. Johnson had been asked about his derogatory comments about Muslims. He responded by saying that he was mistaken, and apologised, but he felt that people wanted someone who talked straight about these issues to be their Prime Minister. This drew massive applause from the Tories. The article pointed out that the article wasn’t mistaken, it was racist, and by applauding him and supporting his leadership bid, the Tories were showing that they supported and shared his racism.

Now there are stresses created by multiculturalism and the problems of adapting to an increasingly ethnically and religiously diverse society. One the one hand, there are fears that alienated Muslims and other minorities may create parallel societies away from mainstream institutions and values. On the other, many Whites do feel marginalised by the growth of non-White communities, with the ‘White flight’ from the multiracial urban centres to the suburbs or rural communities. A few months ago there was a documentary about the last Whites in the East End of London, which discussed how the number of Whites in this part of the capital was declining as they moved away and the older generation died off. Several of the people interviewed on the programme were Black and Asian, who lamented how the White members of their shared community were dwindling. One Muslim gent lamented that his son or children would not see any more White people in this area.

But the Tories don’t try to solve these problems constructively. They don’t try to bring people of different colours, ethnicities and religions together. They just try to exploit White, and particularly White English racism and resentment for their electoral advantage. 

The animus towards Scotland is a case in point. The poem’s recommendation that the Scots people should all be imprisoned behind a gigantic wall actually seems to me to be highly unoriginal. Apart from the fact that the emperor Hadrian did it with his wall, it was done again more recently in the horror flick World War Z. In this Hollywood blockbuster, the world is suffering from a zombie apocalypse. The whole of Scotland, or as near as makes no difference, gets infected, and so they’re sealed off from the rest of Britain behind a wall and an enormous part of gates. I did wonder what the great Scots philosopher and political scientist, Rab C. Nesbit, would have said about it all. Probably ‘What in the name of God! Govan’s no that bad!’

I don’t think the poem was by any means isolated. From what I can remember, it was probably part of a campaign against Scotland, the SNP and New Labour, and with the latter, specifically Gordon Brown. I can remember the Heil publishing a series of articles in which he more than suggested that Scotland was now far more privileged than England. Devolution meant that the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish now had their parliaments and assemblies, but the English didn’t. And while the English couldn’t vote on Scots issues, thanks to devolution, the Scots were voting on English matters. Moreover, New Labour’s leadership was dominated by Scots – Tony Blair, Derry Irvine and Gordon Brown. The attacks on the Scots were a very cynical ploy by the Tories to overturn Labour’s majority. Labour held the majority of British constituencies, but this depended on their seats in Scotland. If those were removed, then the Tories would hold the majority of seats in England. I’ve heard that during New Labour’s term in office, the Tories were on the verge of breaking up and that there were suggestions that the party should be dissolved and rebranded instead as the ‘English Nationalists’. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do remember reading articles in the Heil about the fate of the Tory party if Britain and Scotland went their separate ways. This seems to be the background to that nasty little piece of anti-Scots bigotry in the Speccie.

And the Spectator tried the same with Blacks.

They had to be more careful about this, as they couldn’t get away with it to the same extent as their sneers about the Scots. The Scots are largely White Europeans, rather than a race, nor a persecuted minority in the same way as Blacks and other people of colour have been, and so it’s permissible to make jokes about them or abuse them in ways that would be viewed as racist if done to other groups. But the Spectator tried the same tactics. Way back c. 2004 it ran an article, ‘Blackened Whites’, argued that Whites were unfairly accused for racism. This started out by saying that despite all the rhetoric of multiculturalism and pluralism, there was one group that wasn’t welcome in the streets of central London: White men. London certainly is a very ethnically diverse city, and the last time I looked at the stats over a third of its population were Black or Asian. But that doesn’t mean that Whites aren’t welcome in central London, or other areas where there’s a large Black or Asian population. It looks to me that the article was attempting to play up the resentment some White men feel about affirmative action programmes aimed at ethnic minorities and women. And in this the Tories were – and still are – copying the Republicans, who were deliberately targeting ‘angry White men’.

And this is apart from the Speccie’s contributor, Taki, the Greek playboy, who regularly made racist and anti-Semitic comments in his column. Most recently he caused offence once again when he published a piece praising the Greek Golden Dawn, a bunch of Nazis, who beat up immigrants and left-wingers. One of their leaders was charged with the murder of a left-wing activist.

There is also the deeply ingrained racism of the Tory papers the Scum, Depress and Heil. Or the scandal of institutional Islamophobia in the Tory ranks, as well as the long tradition of racism within the Tory party. Some of us can still remember the scandal caused by the Union of Conservative Students and their racist antics, including the demand that the Tory party should adopt racial nationalism – the ideology of the Nazi fringe, like the National Front and BNP – as their official policy in the 1980s. Zelo Street has also published a series of articles about the findings of one individual on Twitter or Facebook, who revealed the viciously racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic posts by supporters of Boris Johnson and Rees-Mogge on social media.

Despite David Cameron’s efforts to modernise the party and clean up its image, the Tories are still very much a racist party, and so its no surprise that a sizable number of them are supporting Boris Johnson’s bid to lead it.

As for how we should deal with them, I remember the episode of Rab C. Nesbit in which Burnie, the younger of his two sons, decides he’s a Nazi. This ends with Nesbit grabbing Burnie’s ear to administer a suitable walloping while singing ‘Gettest thou to buggery, thou horrid little shite’. I don’t support cruelty to children, and we can’t do it to Johnson. Unfortunately.

But we can all recognise his racism and that of his vile party, and take our votes and our hopes for a better Britain elsewhere.

May Resigns, But Her Replacement Will Be as Bad or Worse

May 25, 2019

On Friday, after months of obstinate refusal May finally gave in to pressure and metaphorically fell on her sword. She resigned as Tory leader, but has said that she will stay on as Prime Minister until June 7th, when her party will select her successor. According to one of the videos of her resignation speech put up by one of the newspapers, she was quite lachrymose about it. The video’s title was about how she cried at her resignation.

Well, call me hardhearted, but I’ve no sympathy at all. May has been a disastrous Prime Minister, and before that was a disastrous home secretary. And her party has had no sympathy for Britain’s working people, and particularly the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. She was part of Cameron’s cabinet when he was pushing through the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS, the massive rise in tuition fees for students, the establishment of workfare, and the expansion of the benefit sanctions regime and the infamous work capability tests. She was there when they cut public spending, froze wages and allowed the establishment of highly exploitative part-time and zero hours contracts. It was Cameron’s Tory government that instituted the bedroom tax, and created the mess we have today where most people now cannot afford to buy their own home, and an increasing number of people are priced out of even rented property. All this was done in order to reduce the tax burden on the super rich elite. This would all somehow reduce public debt and create more jobs and prosperity. With prudent Tory financial management, the economy would soon be back on its feet and we could call an end to austerity.

It hasn’t worked. As Mike’s shown on his blog, the debt’s higher than ever. And the time when it will finally be cleared keeps getting put back and back. The I today ran one article on her, listing the arguments for and against. One of the arguments for her was that she had ended austerity. This is, in my opinion, a flat out lie. She said that austerity was over, but has not reversed her policies. The poor are still seeing their services cut. Actions, it is said, speak louder than words. And the actions say that austerity is still very much Tory policy. They also listed under the ‘for’ column her announcing that £260 million or so extra cash would be pumped into the NHS. But an examination of that announcement reveals that it’s much less impressive than it sounds, as it’s still far short of the money needed to restore the NHS. And I got the distinct impression when the announcement was made that there were no promises on how this would be financed, or when and how the money would be put it into the health service. It seemed another one of Tweezer’s promises, promises that are always broken.

And to add insult to injury there’s the continuing lies and denials about the number of people, who have been killed by the Tories’ welfare cuts. It’s now tens of thousands, and the poverty that the Tories have inflicted is so horrific that they stand condemned – again! – by the UN.

Now I realise that Tweezer wasn’t directly responsible for these policies under Cameron’s administration, and that the Ian Duncan Smith, Esther McVey and the other heads of the DWP are responsible for the horrors of the benefit cuts. But May never raised her hand against them, as far as I know, and she certainly continued them once she got her rear into No. 10.

But as the Home Secretary she was responsible for the government’s racist immigration policy. This included posters encouraging people to inform on illegal immigrants, vans going round to pick up any illegals, who wanted to hand themselves in. She was responsible for the hostile environment policy. A policy that found its lowest expression in the forced, illegal deportation of the Windrush peeps and their children. These were immigrants who, under the terms of the immigration treaties at the time, were perfectly entitled to remain here. Many of the people deported had never seen the country to which they were to be returned, or had last seen it when they were very young. But Tweezer wanted to show she was hard on immigration, as the racists in her party wanted, and so broke the law to have these people removed from their real homes hjere in Blighty.

Far from lamenting her departure, my initial reaction was to quote the Wizard of Oz: ‘Ding Dong, the Witch is dead!’

Unfortunately, her successor is likely to be as bad or worse. We now have a selection of contenders which includes Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom. Even Esther McVey threw her hat into the ring a few days ago, when she gave a speech to the Blue Collar Conservatives group. She was obviously trying to pose as the one thing she is not and has never been, the working man’s and woman’s friend to get the populist vote. As for the Blue Collar Conservatives, I could write a whole rant about them. The whole organisation strikes me as being made up of the type of people Johnny Speight drew on for his monstrous creation, Alf Garnet. I got the impression that BoJo is probably the bookies’ favourite. He has received Murdoch’s blessing, as his papers have been praising him and presenting him, despite all the evidence to the contrary, as some kind of future statesman. Instead he’s a vain, treacherous incompetent with the same savage hatred of the poor and a long streak of racism.

Just flicking through the I today I also caught headlines predicting that if a hard Brexiteer is chosen, confidence in the Tory party could collapse and a general election called. And the Labour party, or at least one of its leaders, has indeed called for one. Quite right. I’m sick of Prime Minister’s handing on the reigns of government to their successors safely in their allotted term, so that the next general election somehow acts as a public acclamation of the new Premier, rather than a proper democratic selection. It’s just a way in which democracy effectively becomes a rubber stamp for a transition of power really done by the party elite. As far as I can remember, it came in with Thatcher. She was ousted part-way through her term, and Major installed by the party faithful. He then went on to win the next election. It doesn’t always work – Blair tried it with Gordon Brown, who lost spectacularly, but the process carried on with Cameron’s departure and the installation of May. And now the Tories are set to do it again with May’s successor, whoever he or she is.

I’m sick of it. I’m sick of the Tories. I’m sick of the misery, the starvation, the deaths and deportations. I want them all gone, not just May.

It’s time we had proper general election to decide her successor. One that will hopefully get rid of them and her, and put Labour and Jeremy Corbyn in instead.

Private Eye on the Connections between the Independent Group, Progress Centre and New Labour

March 6, 2019

This fortnight’s Private Eye for 8th -21st March 2019 has an article on the connections between Chuka Umunna’s Independent Group, the Blairite think tank Progress Centre and Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson. It suggests that Paul Myners, who sits on the think tank’s advisory board, could be funding it. The article on page 7 runs

MYNERS STRIKE

AS WELL as launching “The Independent Group” (TIG) of MPs, Chuka Umunna also chairs a think-tank called Progressive Centre UK. Last August this “next generation ideas lab” gave him a £65,000-a-year (for 12 hours a month) chairing its advisory board.

As TIG launched, the Progressive Centre paid for polling that “shows real appetite for new party” – which was handy for TIG, as its PR people admitted it did not yet have the cash to fund its own polling. The Progressive Centre also published work by academic Steven Fielding arguing that “despite what many believe, the future of the Independent Group might be very bright indeed”.

The most heavyweight member of the Progressive Centre’s advisory board is Lord (Paul) Myners, Gordon Brown’s City minister from 2008 to 2010, and deeply involved in the bank bailouts during the financial crisis. Indeed, the Commons treasury committee criticised Myners over his “City background and naivety” for allowing the disgraced Fred Goodwin to escape from the bailed-out RBS with an £8m pension top-up.

Myners, who also chairs PR firm Edelman and is vice-chair of Peter Mandelson’s lobbying firm Global Counsel, gave Umunna £9,000 for office costs in 2016-17. This was when Umunna was believed to be raising funds for a leadership bid, which was called off when Jeremy Corbyn failed to crash adn burn in the 2017 election.

Could Myers be funding the Progressive Centre itself? The think-tank doesn’t say who funds it – but if he is backing it, it could at least get his name right. On its “People” page its website lists him as “Peter Myners”.

The Progress Centre sounds like a standard Blairite political faction. Myners is a banker and the head of a PR firm, and New Labour was notorious for its insistence on a light regulatory touch for the financial sector, as well as its connections to industry and banking. It was also notorious for PR and spin, instead of real policies. And like the Blairite faction in the Labour party, it’s trying to sound progressive and forward-thinking while in fact it’s just more of the same, shop-worn Thatcherism.

And the Progress Centre and the Independent Group also have another feature in common: they’re heading their financial backers.

As for the Independent Group’s prospects for the future, I think Fielding and his pollsters are being wildly optimistic. The mood of the public is moving left. Labour’s policies are massively popular with the public, unlike those of the Tories and Blairites, who aren’t offering anything except more privatisation and austerity.

As they are now, both the Progress Centre and the Independent Group are also a positive threat to democracy. They won’t reveal who their backers are, but following standard Blairite practice, it’s more than likely that they represent those backers’ interests, rather than that of the British public. They represent more Blairite and Conservative corporatism. And as six out of the eight Labour founders were members of Labour Friends of Israel, including Joan Ryan and her connections with Masot and the Israeli embassy, it’s likely that they’re also receiving money from them. And so they’ll also represent Israeli interests, rather than those of the constituents, who elected them.

Watson Intriguing Again After Splitters’ Departure, Stoking Anti-Semitism Witch-Hunt

February 26, 2019

After the departure of the nine Labour splitters, Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour party, is up to his old tricks again trying to undermine Corbyn. Watson to my mind looks like the American comedian Greg Proops, but without any of Proops’ wit, personality or charisma. He’s a Blairite, who is now trying to use the splitters’ departure to try to get his old chums back onto the front bench, develop a separate back bench power base, and then purge Corbyn’s supporters on the pretext that they’re anti-Semites.

Watson was on the Andrew Marr show to peddle his malign views on Sunday. He claimed that he had received 50 complaints of anti-Semitic abuse from MPs, and that he had passed them on to Corbyn. Now today I read in the Metro that he was demanding to be allowed to deal with allegations of anti-Semitism as well as the party secretary, Jenny Formby, because Formby allegedly wasn’t dealing with them quickly enough.

Yesterdays I, for Monday, 25th February 2019, quoted Watson as saying

‘I think he [Corbyn] needs to take a personal lead on examining those cases and, if necessary, recommend to our [ruling body]NEC what has to be done.

‘The test for him as a leader is to eradicate anti-Semitism. It is not Labour party members, who will be the judge of that, it is the British Jewish community.’

He also demanded a reshuffle of the front bench to represent a greater range of views, saying

If there isn’t one, I think I’d need to give a platform for my colleagues who want their ideas to be listened to by the current Shadow Cabinet’.

The I’s report about his intention to set up a back-bench group of MPs, ‘Splintering: Deputy leader to set up backbench group’, runs as follows

A new grouping of Labour MPs who are disillusioned with the party’s direction under Jeremy Corbyn is being set up by his deputy Tom Watson.

Its launch, which is expected within a fortnight, is aimed at preventing the trickle of defections of MPs to The Independent Group from becoming a flood.

But the faction will also inevitably be seen as a rival power based to Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet. I understands that organisers hope to attract more than 100 backbenchers into the group, which will appoint spokespeople and work on policy initiatives.

Meetings will be held within days to gauge the level of support for the group.

‘We need to assert ourselves more than we have done in the last two years,’ said one MP.

Mr Watson said he wanted to ‘give a platform’ to Labour MPs who felt excluded by the leadership.

‘My central point is that the social democratic voice has to be heard, because that is the only way you keep the Labour party unified and prohibit other colleagues from potentially leaving the PLP_ [Parliamentary Labour Party]. The situation is serious,’ he told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.

Of course, Watson denies he is rebelling. The previous article in the I quoted him as saying that he was ‘standing up for pluralism in the party’.

This is just lies and doubletalk. Watson and the 100 MPs he wants to recruit are obviously Blairites, indignant at being forced out of power. They’ve been intriguing against the Labour leader ever since he came to power. They’ve threatened to leave several times before, just as they’ve tried to oust him as leader. But Corbyn is genuinely popular with the Labour grassroots activists, and his policies are immensely popular with the public. Which puts Watson and his fellow plotters in an awkward position: no-one wants their shoddy, mouldy neoliberal economics any longer. People are sick and tired of Labour trying to copy to the Tories as Blair and his coterie did. And the Blairites themselves were a small minority within the party. They dominated it because they seized control of party bureaucracy, just as Stalin and his supporters were able to seize control of the Communist apparat in the former Soviet Union. These backbench MPs may claim to be defending a plurality of views, but they only views they’re interested in defending and promoting are their own. Not Corbyn’s, and not anyone else’s in the party.

As for claiming to be Social Democrats, this is a sick joke. The Social Democratic tendency in the Labour party was the creation of Anthony Crosland. Crosland didn’t want further nationalisation, because he felt it was unnecessary. Its benefits, he felt, could be obtained instead through progressive taxation, strong trade unions and social mobility. Well, thanks to Thatcherism, social mobility stopped under Blair. In fact, I think under the Tories it’s even been reversed, so that for the first time since the late 19th century Marx’s statement that the middle class are being forced down into the working class is true, at least as far as middle class poverty goes. Similarly, Blair, as a Thatcherite, hated the trade unions and passed legislation aimed at destroying their power. With their acquiescence, it should be said. As for progressive taxation, they’re against that as well. Aaron Bastani quoted an interview in last week’s New Scientist with Chris Leslie in his article on the corrupt, compromised policies of the Independent Group. Leslie had said that he was not in favour of a 50 per cent tax rate. This was the tax rate set by Gordon Brown. And I don’t doubt Leslie was alone. My guess is that a number of the Blairites, who still remain in the Labour party, have the same noxious views.

Watson and the other Blarites aren’t Social Democrats: they’re Red Tories, Thatcherites. Any other description of them is a lie.

As for the anti-Semitism allegations, my guess is that it’s just more smears of people supporting Corbyn and standing up for the Palestinians. And when Watson says that Labour will be judged by the Jewish community, he’s not talking about the Jewish community as a whole. He’s talking about the Tory, Zionist Jewish establishment. The Board of Deputies of British Jews, which is monstrously right-wing and which is an explicitly Zionist organisation. An organisation which is morally corrupt and deeply compromised. How else can you describe an organisation which issued nauseating, spurious justifications for the IDF shooting unarmed Gazans last year? Which excludes Orthodox and secular Jews? And which howled with rage when Corbyn spent a Pesach (Passover) seder with the socialists of Jewdas, and claimed this was an insult to the Jewish community?

And the same is to be said about the Chief Rabbinate. The former chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, caused shock and outrage when he called Reform Jews ‘enemies of the faith’, like a medieval inquisitor about to launch an auto-da-fe against heretics and Jews. He also considered homosexuality to be a terrible sin and warned his congregation not to join a gay rights march, until he later changed his mind, that is. And he led a contingent of Jewish British thugs to Israel to join the March of the Flags. That’s the day when Israeli ultra-nationalists march through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem vandalising their homes and businesses and threatening and intimidating them. I see no difference between it, and Tommy Robinson and his odious crew marching into British Muslim communities, or Mosley and the British Union of Fascists goose-stepping into the Jewish community in the East End in the 1930s. And when the Jewish community held their rallies last summer against Corbyn, organised by the Board and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, those attending including members and supporters of the Fascist organisations Kach, the Jewish Defence League, and the English Defence League Jewish Division.

Similarly, Watson’s declaration that he wants to assist in dealing with cases of anti-Semitism cases means that he’s unhappy with Formby’s handling of it for other reasons. He wants more Cobynites thrown out through the same spurious reasons that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism and that describing Israeli plotting to determine who should be in the cabinet as a ‘conspiracy’ is the same as reviving the smears on Jews as a whole of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Oh yes, and that showing a photoshopped image of a Jobcentre with the slogan ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ on it is another terrible anti-Semitic smear, rather than a justifiable description of the murderous policies of the DWP.

And his demand to decide these cases personally is the precise same tactic Stalin used when he gained power. Before Stalin became leader of the Soviet Communist party, the post of General Secretary was a relatively unimportant position. His comrades thought he was thick, and so gave him the job thinking that he would satisfied purging it of all the drunks and seducers. But as well as getting rid of them, he was also using it to purge his enemies’ supporters and fill it with his own. He’s supposed to have said of the power of elections, ‘It’s not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes’.

Watson is a typical Blairite. He follows Blair and the others as a destructive neoliberal, who wants absolute obedience to a highly centralised, dictatorial party elite. It is not Corbyn and his supporters who should be thrown out, but him and his.

Aaron Bastani on the ‘Independents’ as the Old, Blairite Austerity Politics

February 25, 2019

In this 20 minute long video from Novara Media, presenter Aaron Bastani utterly demolishes the new ‘Independent’ grouping of MPs. He shows that rather than being any kind of new politics, they are simply the old, Blairite and Tory politics neoliberal politics. They are radically out of tune with what people really want, especially millennials, who have left much worse off than the preceding generation by the same politics the Blairites and Tories were pushing. And they’re being promoted by the media because they represent the old style of politics the media like: austerity with a smiley face.

Labour MPs All Going Before They’re Pushed

Bastani begins the video by describing how the departure of the seven Labour MPs – Gavin Shuker, Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna, Ann Coffee, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, who left to form the Independents – wasn’t actually a surprise. They were all loud critics of Corbyn, and almost all of them had been subject to motions of ‘no confidence’ or were facing deselection. They were then joined the next day by Joan Ryan, another critic of Corbyn, who had also lost a ‘no confidence’ motion. They were then joined the day after that by Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston from the Tories, who complained about the old, ‘broken’ politics of Labour versus Tories.

Independents Not Democratic, and Not a Political Party

The Independents, however, aren’t a political party as such. Which means that they don’t get the Short Money given to opposition parties. This could add up to hundreds of thousands of pounds. They also don’t have to conform to the same standards as proper political parties, although they claim that they will try to do so as best they can.  They also don’t have a membership. You can give them your name and contact details, and make a donation, but there is no mechanism for creating a mass organisation where the membership can determine policy. It’s a private organisation more than a political party. But what concerns Bastani the most is that they don’t want to hold bye-elections, because this would ‘crush democracy’. It’s doublespeak, and the truth is that they don’t want bye-elections because they’d lose.

Angela Smith’s Racism

He then goes on to describe how the seven founding ex-Labour members claim that they were driven out of the party by its racism, only for Angela Smith to say within hours the most racist thing he’s ever heard a politician say on television. To show how badly their launch went, Bastani produces some viewing figures. On the Monday the video of their launch had 75,000 views on Twitter. The video of Angela Smith’s apology got 700,000 views. But the video of Smith making her racist comments got even more – 1.5 million views. And while the Mirror and the Guardian wanted to splash on a video by Tom Watson, which got 500 shares on Facebook, Novara’s video of their own Ash Sarkar showing the corruption at the heart of the group – she challenged smith on her chairmanship of a parliamentary group supporting water privatisation, funded largely by the water companies – got 200,000 views. Chris Leslie then appeared later on the Beeb to sort this out. Where once again he talked about their love of democracy. A love so strong, that they don’t want to hold bye-elections, thus disenfranchising the hundreds of thousands of people, who voted for these 11 MPs. They claimed to be anti-racist, but set a new record by being racist ‘pretty much by lunchtime’.

People More Politically Engaged, Not Less

But their fundamental principle is that people don’t want Labour or Tory, but what Labour used to be 15 years ago. But at the 2017 election, 82 per cent of the population voted for either of the two main parties – Tories or Labour. That was the highest percentage the parties had since 1979. In 2010 only 65 per cent of the public voted Labour or Tory. The idea that people are turning away from the two main parties when there is a clear choice, socialism or neoliberalism, isn’t true. And the claim that people are disengaged from politics doesn’t stand up either. Voter turn-out was higher in the 2017 election, just as it was higher during the Scottish reference in 2014, and the Brexit referendum in 2016. Which was the biggest democratic exercise in British history. More people voted in that than in any previous general election or referendum. And Labour now has more than 500,000 members – more than it has had in a generation. The same is true for the SNP. More people are members of political parties now than at any point in Bastani’s lifetime. And if people genuinely do want centrist politics, how is it that the Lib Dems, who got only 8 per cent of the vote in 2015, got even less in 2017? This was despite the ‘media Einsteins’ telling us all that they would do well against the two main parties in a Brexit election. It’s almost as if, says Bastani, that the media don’t know what they’re talking about when they claim to know what the public wants.

Labour Policies Massively Popular

And then there are the policy issues. Labour’s policies are very popular. They’re right at the top of the list of why people voted Labour. But they don’t want to imitate these popular policies. Chris Leslie in an interview with New Scientist said he didn’t want a top tax rate of 50 per cent. That’s not a Corbynite policy, it’s one of Gordon Brown’s. He was also against stopping tuition fees and rejects the renationalisation of the railways, both extremely popular policies. These aren’t just popular with Labour voters, but also with Tories and Lib Dems. And polls conducted by IPPR And Sky News did polls at the end of last year which showed clear majorities of the British public wanting the Bank of England to keep house prices down and a minimal presence, at least, of workers on company boards. People don’t want centrist policies. They’re moving left, as shown on poll after poll.

Millennials Left-Wing because of Neoliberalism

And there’s a clear generational difference. At the last Labour split in 1981 when the SDP was formed, there was a clear movement to the right and post-war socialist policies had become unpopular. And yet when this split happened, the Economist carried an article decrying the popularity of socialism amongst millennials both in America and Britain. This meant ‘Generation Z’ young people, who want the government to address climate change as a fundamental part of 21st century politics. And these millennials despised the Tories, as shown by footage of an anti-Tory march. These are going to be the voters of the 2020s. And they’re not going to be bought off. They’re not left-wing because of something the read in a book, or because they want to be countercultural. They’re left-wing because their living standards and expectations are lower than their parents, they have a less expansive welfare state, they’re going to have higher levels of debt and earn less, and they will have to deal with systemic crises like demographic aging and climate change. They rightly feel that they’re screwed over. And the idea that these same people are going to agree with Chris Leslie’s idea of politics is probably the stupidest thing you’ll hear this year. And this is only February.

The Failure of Centrist Parties in France, America, Italy, Spain and Canada

But since 2015 centrist politicians have been hammered in election like Hillary Clinton in 2016. Emmanuel Macron in France was hailed as the saviour of French centrism, despite only taking 24 per cent of the vote in the first round. Now he’s the most unpopular president in French history after months of protests by the gilets jaunes, which have been met with tear gas attacks by the gendarmes, which have left people losing their eyes and their lives. Then there’s Matteo Renzi of the Partito Democratico, the Democratic Party, the Italian sister party to Britain’s Labour. In 2014 they took 42 per cent of the vote. But he was out within two years, having lost a referendum by 20 points. And in the last election the party lost half of their senators, leaving Italy governed by the Five Star Movement and the far-right Liga. Then there’s the example of the PSOE’s Pedro Sanchez. The PSOE is the Spanish equivalent of the Labour party. He’s also suffered mass protests and this week Spain called new general elections, which his party are certain to lose. Centrism is not popular in Europe or America, so the Independents have to turn to Canada’s Justin Trudeau. But Trudeau is now less popular in his country than Donald Trump in the US. Not that the media pushing ‘centrism’ will tell you this.

The Centrist Real Policy: More Austerity

The unpopularity of centrist politics is due to the fact that they still haven’t solved the problems of global capitalism created by the 2008 crash. They believed that financialisation would create the economic growth that would support public services. But financialisation hasn’t created growth since 2008. And as they can’t create prosperity and tackle income inequality, all they’ve have to give us is austerity ‘with a nice smiley face’.

Labour Splitters against Iraq Inquiry, For Welfare Cuts

And not only do the eight former Labour MPs have Brexit in common, they also voted against an independent inquiry into Iraq. A million people have been affected by the war, along with those, who suffered under ISIS, and Iranian influence has expanded across the Middle East. The idea that Iraq is irrelevant is not only absurd, it is a disgrace. People have died, and it has made an already volatile region even more so. And Britain is directly responsible. The former Labour MPs also abstained on the vote of welfare reform before Corbyn came to power. They do not stand for a moral foreign policy, or for a more just social system at home.

Their politics are a mixture of careerism and opportunism, and their opposition to Brexit actually makes a new deal more likely. They are driven by fundamental democratic principles, but won’t stand for a bye-election. No members, no policies, no party democracy, no vision. Bastani states that this isn’t the future of politics, it’s the past, and the worst aspects at that. He looks forward to sensible people joining them, because they’re going to be found out sooner or later. And if we want to establish the primacy of socialist ideas, he says, then bring it on.

Now Tories Troubled by Split

February 21, 2019

Yesterday, a group of three MPs, Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry, defected from the Tory party to join the Independent corporation, that had split from Labour.

At their press conference they gave three reasons why they had left. Heidi Allen said she was disgusted with the suffering the party had inflicted and its lack of benevolence. For Sarah Wollaston, it was the harm the Tories had done to the manufacturing industry. And for Anna Soubry it was the way her former party had wrecked the country with their massively inept handling of Brexit. Or it might have been Wollaston, who was most concerned about Brexit, and Soubry about the destruction of Britain’s manufacturing sector under the Tories. This is how the reasons for their departure was presented on one of the short videos on YouTube, although I got the impression from listening to Heidi Allen speaking on the 45 minute long video of their press conference put out by Channel 4 News that she was also concerned about Brexit and the attack on manufacturing, as she also ran her own manufacturing firm.

The Tories, who had previously been gleefully exploiting Chuka Umunna and company’s split from the Labour party, were left outraged in their turn. Hunt gave a speech saying how much he regretted the departure of such valued colleagues. Other Tory functionaries demanded that the Splitters should now call a bye-election. Just like the real supporters and activists in the Labour party have been demanding Umunna and his coteries of bitter Blairites do.

I don’t know how sincere Allen and her two colleagues are about the suffering caused by the Tory party. She made a number of speeches saying how upset she was by the suffering caused by her former party’s wretched welfare reforms, but voted for them all the same. So in her case it was, as Mike pointed out, a case of crocodile tears. She may be genuine, and that after years of dutifully following the party line her conscience has won at last. Or it may simply be that, like some other Tories, she’s just worried that the electorate will punish the Tories for the misery they’ve inflicted at the next election.

I think the three’s statement that they’re concerned about British manufacturing and the devastating effects of Brexit are rather more genuine. Margaret Thatcher and Blair in his turn ignored the manufacturing sector. One members of Thatcher’s cabinet, who was the only member in it from that sector of the economy, described how he couldn’t get Thatcher to understand that a strong pound would harm British manufacturing by making our products more expensive. She also uncritically accepted as an article of her neoliberal, free market dogma, that failing firms and industries should be allowed to go under, and should not be given government assistance. Which contrasted with Labour’s promotion of the National Enterprise Boards and state assistance for British industry, where the government would help firms acquire plant and equipment.

And as a good Thatcherite, Blair also adopted her destructive attitude to British industry. He was also quite happy to see British manufacturing collapse. Instead, its place at the heart of the British economy would be taken by the financial sector and the service industries. Deanne Julius, a leading official at the Bank of England, recruited from America, actually said that Britain should give up its manufacturing industry, and simply concentrate on the service industries.

The result has been that vast swathes of traditional British industry have been destroyed by Thatcherism, including mining. Which was done simply to destroy the miners’ union, so they could never overthrow a Tory government as they had Heath’s. However, as Ha Joon-Chang has shown in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, manufacturing is still an extremely important part of the British economy. It looks weak simply because it hasn’t expanded as much as the other sectors of the British economy. But if it went, the British economy would collapse completely.

As for Brexit, the past few weeks have seen company after company leave the UK because of the Tory party’s incompetence. They’re leaving because we haven’t reached a trade agreement with EU, and so the tariff barriers that will be erected after Britain leaves will make it difficult for them to sell their products after our departure. The latest firm to announce it was closing down its British plant has been Honda in Swindon. When this goes, so do 3,500 jobs.

But I doubt that this will concern those in the Tory party demanding a hard Brexit, like the odious Jacob Rees-Mogg. The financial sector has also been hit, with various banks and international financial regulators announcing that they will leave Britain for Dublin, Paris and the Netherlands. But this doesn’t seem to dismay Mogg and his comrades. They seem to be all financiers, who make their money through investing in companies around the world. And so the destruction of the British manufacturing sector simply doesn’t affect them. They’ll get their money anyway.

The Tory party is seriously split over Brexit. It was to call the Eurosceptics’ bluff that Cameron called the referendum in the first place. He was so confident that people would vote ‘remain’ that he didn’t do any proper campaigning. The result was that he was astonished when the ‘Leave’ vote prevailed. But I gather that the Tories were on the edge of splitting years before, when Tony Blair was in power. Blair stole their policies, and indeed moved further right than the Tories had dared. The party was also split between the Tory paternalists and Thatcherites, and the rural sector, which believed that British agriculture and country communities were being ignored. I’ve heard it said that if Brown had won the 2010 election, the Tories would have collapsed completely, and would have tried to rebrand themselves instead as the English Nationalists. This has the ring of truth, as I do remember one opinion piece in the Heil actually recommending that the party thus rename itself.

I hope that the departure of Allen, Wollaston and Soubry will spark a series of other defections from the Tories and bring about the party’s much-need demise. It’s brought nothing but misery and poverty to Britain’s working people since Thatcher came to power in 1979. And even if the party doesn’t collapse completely, I want there to be so many defections that at the least it causes the collapse of May’s vile, malignant, destructive government.

Vox Political Right Again! May Prepares Plan for Martial Law Post-Brexit

January 28, 2019

Mike’s keen eye for the direction events are taking us has been vindicated once again. A little while ago he predicted that Tweezer was preparing legislation to declare a state of martial law in the event of serious civil disruptions following a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. These would be caused by shortages of food and medicine. As Mike reminds us, there was a commenter, who doubted whether 3,500 troops could hold down a country of 60 million people.

Now it seems Mike was exactly right. According to the Sunday Times, which Mike acknowledges is a dodgy source, and the I, Tweezer has indeed prepared a plan to declare martial law in just such an event, and quotes the relevant passage from the latter paper. Cause obviously, he doesn’t want to give money to the Mendacious Murdoch Machine.

Mike’s on something of a roll here, as he was also proved right about Brexit negatively affecting Jaguar Landrover. They’ve stopped production for an extra week because of uncertainties over Brexit. He was also right when he said that after criticizing Rachel Riley and her supporters for fake anti-Semitism claims and trolling a schoolgirl with anxiety issues, he’d also get attacked. And he was.

How bad will the situation be post-Brexit. Well, the I’s article quotes one source, who says that it will be worse than the disruption caused by volcanic ash, and would be comparable to a major Europe-wide war.

Mike concludes his article with the comment

Of course, martial law is an extreme measure that would be imposed only in dire need – or if a government is desperate to keep power in spite of the will of the people.

Do you trust Theresa May not to follow the latter path?
See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/27/martial-law-plan-for-post-brexit-britain-shows-this-site-was-right-again/

Well, no, I don’t trust Tweezer to put country ahead of party, or even her own personal interests. She’s never done so in the past, and won’t in the future. Ian Hislop called Gordon Brown ‘Mr Limpet’ after the 2010 election on Have I Got News For You because of Brown’s determination to hang on to power even after the losing the election. The Lib Dems claimed that they were willing to form a coalition with Labour, but only if Brown went. He refused, so they joined the Tories. Except that they’d been in talks with the Tories for weeks before, and the whole claim that they were willing to support Labour was a sham. But Tweezer surely deserves to be called ‘Mrs Limpet’ because of her determination to cling on to power, regardless of the harm her government is doing to this country and, hopefully, the future of the Tory party.

Corbyn has repeatedly been attacked because his policies of supporting the nationalization of the utilities and strong unions and workers’ rights supposedly threaten to take this country back to the 1970s.

But it’s Tweezer who’s doing that.

It’s been under watch that last week there was a terrorist bombing in Ulster, and she’s preparing to declare martial law because of civil unrest and shortages. The last time I recall this happening was during the ‘Winter of Discontent’ in 1979, when it was all blamed on the trade unions. And friends of mine in the Smoke told me they were affected by a power cut. Again, the last time I remember this happening was back in the 1970s when Ted Heath was trying to show the miners, who really ran the country. Well, as the election showed, it wasn’t him.

This is Tweezer and the Tories’ Brexit Britain: power cuts, potential shortages and martial law. And this time they can’t blame Labour nor the unions.

Get Tweezer out, and Corbyn in, before Tweezer really does turn this country into a dictatorship.

Tony Benn: Socialism Needed to Prevent Massive Abuse by Private Industry

January 7, 2019

In the chapter ‘Labour’s Industrial Programme’ in his 1979 book, Arguments for Socialism, Tony Benn makes a very strong case for the extension of public ownership. This is needed, he argued, to prevent serious abuse by private corporations. This included not just unscrupulous and unjust business policies, like one medical company overcharging the health service for its products, but also serious threats to democracy. Benn is also rightly outraged by the way companies can be bought and sold without the consultation of their workers. He writes

The 1970s provided us with many examples of the abuse of financial power. There were individual scandals such as the one involving Lonrho which the Conservative Prime Minister, Mr Heath, described as the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’. Firms may be able to get away with the payment of 38,000 pounds a year to part-time chairmen if no one else knows about it. But when it becomes public and we know that the chairman, as a Conservative M.P., supports a statutory wages policy to keep down the wage of low-paid workers, some earning less than 20 pounds a week at the time, it becomes intolerable. There was the case of the drug company, Hoffman-La Roche, who were grossly overcharging the National Health Service. There was also the initial refusal by Distillers to compensate the thalidomide children properly.

There were other broader scandals such as those involving speculation in property and agricultural land; the whole industry of tax avoidance; the casino-like atmosphere of the Stock Exchange. Millions of people who experience real problems in Britain are gradually learning all this on radio and television and from the press. Such things are a cynical affront to the struggle that ordinary people have to feed and clothe their families.

But the problem goes deeper than that. Workers have no legal rights to be consulted when the firms for which they work are taken over. They are sold off like cattle when a firm changes hands with no guarantee for the future. The rapid growth of trade union membership among white-collar workers and even managers indicates the strength of feelings about that. Not just the economic but also the political power of big business, especially the multinationals, has come into the open.

In Chile the ITT plotted to overthrow an elected President. The American arms companies, Lockheed and Northrop, have been shown to have civil servants, generals, ministers and even prime ministers, in democratic countries as well as dictatorships, on their payroll. The Watergate revelations have shown how big business funds were used in an attempt to corrupt the American democratic process. In Britain we have had massive political campaigns also financed by big business to oppose the Labour Party’s programme for public ownership and to secure the re-election of Conservative governments. Big business also underwrote the cost of the campaign to keep Britain in the Common Market at the time of the 1975 referendum. (pp. 49-50).

Benn then moves to discuss the threat of the sheer amount of power held by big business and the financial houses.

Leaving aside the question of abuse, the sheer concentration of industrial and economic power is now a major political factor. The spate of mergers in recent years in Britain alone – and their expected continuation – can be expressed like this: in 1950 the top 100 companies in Britain produced about 20 per cent of the national output. By 1973 they produced 46 per cent. And at this rate, by 1980, they will produce 66 per cent – two-thirds of our national output. Many of them will be operating multinationally, exporting capital and jobs and siphoning off profits to where the taxes are most profitable.

The banks, insurance companies and financial institutions are also immensely powerful. In June 1973 I was invited to speak at a conference organised by the Financial Times and the Investors Chronicle. It was held in the London Hilton, and before going I added up the total assets of the banks and other financial institutions represented in the audience. They were worth at that time about 95,000 million pounds. This was at the time about twice as much as the Gross National Product of the United Kingdom and four or five times the total sum raised in taxation by the British government each year. (p.50).

He then goes on to argue that the Labour party has to confront what this concentration of industrial and financial power means for British democracy and its institutions, and suggests some solutions.

The Labour Party must ask what effect all this power will have on the nature of our democracy. Britain is proud of its system of parliamentary democracy, its local democracy and its free trade unions. But rising against this we have the growing power of the Common Market which will strip our elected House of Commons of its control over some key economic decisions. This has greatly weakened British democracy at a time when economic power is growing stronger.

I have spelled this out because it is the background against which our policy proposals have been developed. In the light of our experience in earlier governments we believed it would necessary for government to have far greater powers over industry. These are some of the measures we were aiming at in the Industry Bill presented to Parliament in 1975, shortly after our return to power:

The right to require disclosure of information by companies
The right of government to invest in private companies requiring support.
The provision for joint planning between government and firms.
The right to acquire firms, with the approval of Parliament.
The right to protect firms from takeovers.
The extension of the present insurance companies’ provisions for ministerial control over board members.
The extension of the idea of Receivership to cover the defence of the interests of workers and the nation.
Safeguards against the abuse of power by global companies.

If we are to have a managed economy-and that seems to be accepted – the question is: ‘In whose interests is it to be managed?’ We intend to manage it in the interests of working people and their families. But we do not accept the present corporate structure of Government Boards, Commissions and Agents, working secretly and not accountable to Parliament. The powers we want must be subjected to House of Commons approval when they are exercised. (pp. 50-1).

I don’t know what proportion of our economy is now dominated by big business and the multinationals, but there is absolutely no doubt that the situation after nearly forty years of Thatcherism is now much worse. British firms, including our public utilities, have been bought by foreign multinationals, are British jobs are being outsourced to eastern Europe and India.

There has also been a massive corporate takeover of government. The political parties have become increasingly reliant on corporate donations from industries, that then seek to set the agenda and influence the policies of the parties to which they have given money. The Conservatives are dying from the way they have consistently ignored the wishes of their grassroots, and seem to be kept alive by donations from American hedge fund firms. Under Blair and Brown, an alarmingly large number of government posts were filled by senior managers and officials from private firms. Both New Labour and the Tories were keen to sell off government enterprises to private industry, most notoriously to the firms that bankrolled them. And they put staff from private companies in charge of the very government departments that should have been regulating them. See George Monbiot’s Captive State.

In America this process has gone so far in both the Democrat and Republican parties that Harvard University in a report concluded that America was no longer a functioning democracy, but a form of corporate oligarchy.

The Austrian Marxist thinker, Karl Kautsky, believed that socialists should only take industries into public ownership when the number of firms in them had been reduced through bankruptcies and mergers to a monopoly. Following this reasoning, many of the big companies now dominating modern Britain, including the big supermarkets, should have been nationalized long ago.

Tony Benn was and still is absolutely right about corporate power, and the means to curb it. It’s why the Thatcherite press reviled him as a Communist and a maniac. We now no longer live in a planned economy, but the cosy, corrupt arrangements between big business, the Tories, Lib Dems and New Labour, continues. Ha-Joon Chang in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism argues very strongly that we need to return to economic planning. In this case, we need to go back to the policies of the ’70s that Thatcher claimed had failed, and extend them.

And if that’s true, then the forty years of laissez-faire capitalism ushered in by Thatcher and Reagan is an utter, utter failure. It’s time it was discarded.