Posts Tagged ‘Inflation’

Leaked Applebee’s Memo about Using the Cost of Living Crisis to Exploit Employees

March 25, 2022

A few days ago the Chris Hedge’s Fan Club posted a leaked memo from Applebee’s which definitely shows that in the current economic crisis, we are definitely not ‘all in it together’. Chris Hedges is a powerful left-wing American journalist and broadcaster. I think he might be an ordained Presbyterian minister. Certainly his father was, before he was thrown out by his congregation for backing gay rights. This was obviously at a time when the gay rights movement was just beginning and still massively controversial. Hedge’s himself was one of the few journalists to cover the wars in Central America in the 1980s from the front line, and he has talked about the atrocities committed by Fascist groups like the Contras in Nicaragua. This were the same Fascist death squads and torturers to whom Reagan sold arms and provided other aid, while allowing them to finance their campaigns of terror by exporting cocaine to America. Where it helped further devastate desperately poor Black Americans. The same butchers Reagan declared were the ‘moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers’. Some patriotic Americans could feel their country was being insulted. Other left-wingers might be more worried that it’s true.

A few days ago the YouTube channel devoted to him and his analysis of capitalism and contemporary politics got hold of a leaked memo from Applebee’s. We don’t have it in this country, but I gather that it’s a chain of restaurants across the Pond. The memo talked about using the current crisis, with petrol prices rising and inflation expected to explode generally, as an opportunity for treating people badly. ‘Because their desperate’.

This is grubby, and I realise that not all businesses are like it. But this is the predatory face of capitalism, and unfortunately it’s companies like this that are bankrolling the political parties on both sides of the Atlantic. The right regard capitalism as patriotic, but there is nothing patriotic about this. It’s anti-social profiteering, pure and simple.

We need to end corporate donations in politics, and drive through legislation to protect workers and consumers from such cynical exploitation.

Richard Burgon’s Petition for a Wealth Tax Not National Insurance Increase

March 16, 2022

I’ve just had this email from left-wing Labour MP Richard Burgon for a tax on the superrich one per cent to be imposed instead of the Tories’ increase on National Insurance, which will affect the working class.

‘People are being hit by a cost-of-living emergency from soaring energy bills, high inflation, falling real-term wages and cuts to Universal Credit.

Yet next month the Tories are going to make this even worse by hiking National Insurance on ordinary working people.

I’ve launched a campaign to scrap this tax rise on working people and to replace it with a Wealth Tax on the richest 1%.

I’ve put down a parliamentary motion calling for this – already backed by over 60 MPs from 8 parties.

Next week I’ll be presenting a public petition in parliament calling for the Tories to scrap this National Insurance rise and replace it with a Wealth Tax.

Will you back my campaign by adding your name to the petition I am presenting in Parliament next week?

Sign the petition to tell the Tories: we want a Wealth Tax not a National Insurance rise

I’ve absolutely no problem with signing the petition. Since the election of Thatcher, the Tory party has given massive tax cuts to the rich, which has been offset by shifting the tax burden onto the working class. The proposed National Insurance tax hike is part of that policy. It’s time it was ended and the rich were made to pay their fair share.

Belfield Rants Against the Rich Imposing Wage Freeze – Yes! That’s Why Corbyn Was Right!

February 9, 2022

Bug-eyed right-wing YouTuber Alex Belfield also put up another video today in which he gave his viewers the benefit of his scathing criticism of the Bank of England. Inflation is rising, you see, and the Bank is afraid that if people ask for a pay rise, this is will exacerbate it. So they’ve called for people not to ask for one. Belfield was duly disgusted, pointing out that the people ordering this were toffs, who would then give themselves an exorbitant pay rise on the grounds of enhanced performance or something like that. I don’t disagree with him. Prices are rising, and pay has been kept below the inflation rate for donkey’s years now so that most people have effectively taken a pay cut. The left in Britain and America has pointed out that pay for ordinary people has stagnated since the 1980s. But it has increased massively for the rich. And we have seen chief executives award themselves massive, bloated pay rises, all accompanied by cries that it was just performance related pay and they were paying themselves the market rate for their talents. Even when those talents pushed their companies to the wall. A number of economists have actually suggested that keeping inflation low actually hasn’t benefited the economy, which is another knock to Thatcherism.

Jeremy Corbyn promised to increase the pay of ordinary people. He was also going to strengthen trade unions and give employees more rights at work. It was after all strong unions that won pay rises for their workers. But Thatcher hated the unions because they were a check on management and lowered productivity. So she did everything she could to strangle and smash them, a policy that was continued by all the administrations that followed her.

As for people not being able to afford food and other essentials, wasn’t that what the prices and incomes policy pursued by various post-War governments until Thatcher was supposed to solve? Yes, I think it was. Looks like we might need to revive it. Which is more proof of the massive failure of Thatcherism.

Everything working people are suffering now is the direct result of the Conservative, Thatcherite policies Belfield supports. This is why Thatcherism should be consigned to the dustbin and his own wretched right-wing opinions ignored.

It’s why we need to give working people real wages, and revive the trade unions.

It’s why we should have had Jeremy Corbyn in No. 10.

Cassetteboy and Kunt Call Johnson What He Is (Contains Offensive Language)

December 18, 2021

As you were probably told by your parents and teachers, swearing and obscenity aren’t big and they aren’t clever. But unfortunately, it can also be funny and sometimes vulgarity is the only right way to express disgust at vile people and the situations they create. Cassetteboy are a bunch of YouTubers who specialise in songs satirising the powerful, rich and famous by carefully editing their words so that they appear to say things that are absolutely ridiculous. Kunt and the Gang are a pop band on the internet, who make humorous songs which are also offensive and obscenely vulgar. As you can tell from his name, which is obviously based on a very offensive four letter word. Kunt himself looks to me like a grey-haired version of 70s actor Richard O’Sullivan from Man About the House and The Adventures of Dick Turpin. As for the type of humour in their songs, well, after Katy Perry released ‘I Kissed a Girl’, about a young woman’s first lesbian clinch, Kunt and the Gang produced ‘I Sucked Off A Bloke’, about how he lost a bet on a building site and had to perform a particularly obscene forfeit, which he didn’t enjoy.

Cassetteboy’s editing has Johnson singing about how it’s his party, and they don’t care if you die. If there’s any opposition, they just change the rules. The only thing they really care about is the money in their bank accounts. They give public cash to the rich, and the only things levelling up are Covid and inflation. The Tories will make Britain bleed, but distract us with hatred of the refugee channel migrants. At which point Kunt appears to yell ‘He’s still a c**t’. Boris says he wasn’t at the front of the cue when God gave out brains and personality, so it’s always worth betting on him fouling up. And he hope he doesn’t offend people with his language, but he’s still the same ‘a f***ing c**t’. At which point Kunt appears again, centre stage, to repeat the message.

I apology for the offensive language, but this is an accurate description of the way severely normal Brits are losing patience with him, and the complete contempt and diversionary tactics the Tories are using by whipping up hatred against refugees.

Viktor Orban Uses Pandemic to Become Dictator of Hungary

April 2, 2020

The onward march of the extreme right in eastern Europe takes another fateful goosestep. Viktor Orban, the already very authoritarian president of Hungary, has used the Coronavirus crisis as the pretext to pass legislation destroying the last vestiges of the democracy there, establishing him as the country’s virtual dictator.

On Monday, Zelo Street posted a piece based on an article in the Groaniad, reporting that Hungary’s parliament, dominated by his xenophobic Fidesz Party, was expected to grant him sweeping powers. These will give Orban the ability to rule by decree. Elections will be banned. The speaker of the Hungarian parliament and parliamentary groups will be informed of the government’s actions. However, spreading false information will become a criminal offence punishable by a long prison sentence. It will be prerogative of Orban’s Fidesz MPs to decide when the emergency is over. Orban has said that when it is, he will surrender all his powers without exception. However, there’s absolutely no guarantee of this, as the laws he passed in 2016 against asylum seekers, which were also supposed to be temporary, are still in place. It’s therefore possible that a compliant parliament will allow Orban to hang on to some or all of them.

Zelo Street stated unequivocally that the EU should expel Hungary because of this seizure of power. The Sage of Crewe pointed out that when the EU was the EEC, and only consisted of France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries – Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, the dictatorships to the east and west of the bloc stood absolutely no chance of getting. This meant the Fascist dictatorships of Portugal and Spain, Greece under the military rule of the colonels, Ceausescu’s Romania and the DDR (East Germany) under Erich Honecker. He remarks that Hungary’s continued membership of the EU has been a test for its remaining member states, one that they have so far failed to tackle. He concludes

‘Viktor Orbán may be more Chaplin than Hitler. But if the values of the EU are to mean anything, the Union cannot permit a dictatorship within its club. So expel the SOB.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/eu-must-now-expel-hungary.html

Zelo Street describes this legislation as an ‘enabling law’. The reference is to the Enabling Act which formally made Adolf Hitler dictator of Germany and suspended parliamentary democracy. And the Nazis, and the Italian Fascists before them, also seized power in response to a crisis. Fascist governments are crisis regimes. In the case of Italy and Germany, the crisis was first of all the breakdown in parliamentary democracy, as the pillars of the liberal regime in those nations stopped cooperating. In Germany this led to the president, Hindenburg, ruling by decree. This was succeeded by the recession caused by the Wall Street Crash and the massive uncontrolled inflation that saw the Mark as worth far less than the paper it was printed on. This discredited capitalism for millions of Germans, leading to a surge in votes for the Nazis and the Communists. And finally there was the Reichstag fire, which allowed the Nazis to declare a state of emergency and begin rounding up subversives. Which meant anybody who didn’t cede power to Hitler, and particularly Communists and the democratic socialists of the SPD.

Fidesz is extremely xenophobic and, like many political parties in the former eastern bloc, in particular anti-Semitic and islamophobic. I’ve no doubt Orban would be overjoyed if he could somehow blame the pandemic on Gypsies, Jews, homosexuals and Muslims. And I’m afraid that where Orban’s gone, other countries will follow, such as Poland under the Law and Justice Party. Or even Britain, where Boris has also passed legislation granting him extraordinary sweeping powers to deal with the pandemic emergency.

The EU’s failure to do so is an indictment of the hypocrisy of its leading politicos. Years ago Private Eye published an account of the EU’s dictatorial attitude towards the states then seeking membership in its ‘Brussels Sprouts’ column. The terms and conditions were very detailed and were not open to negotiation. Or at least, not very much. One of the countries joining was the Czech Republic. It’s president, Vaclav Klaus, was so outraged by his country’s dictatorial treatment, and told the EU negotiating team that his country had not suffered such treatment for nearly 30 years. This was in the late ’90s – early 2000s, so he was probably referring to the Russian invasion which ended the Prague Spring, the attempt by Czech premier Anton Dubcek to make Communism popular and democratic. This infuriated two of the EU’s team, the French former radical, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and a German MEP. They immediately climbed on their high horses and started angrily shouting about how the EU was the opposite, and was the champion of democracy. And I can remember how, about ten years ago, the EU managed to leave many people highly unimpressed when it sanctimoniously awarded a peace prize to itself, claiming that it had successfully kept the peace in Europe. Well, possibly. But I also think NATO and a general fear across the continent of another war had played a major party. If the EU is unable, or unwilling, to do anything about Orban’s seizure of power, then all the verbiage about defending democracy is simply empty, vacuous nonsense. As readers of this blog will know, I am absolutely no supporter of Brexit. But it is true that EU is an immensely flawed institution.

It’s too much to claim that the EU is some kind of authoritarian superstate, an EUSSR, as the Kippers and Brexiteers liked to describe it, or some kind of successor to the Third Reich or Napoleon’s empire. But with Orban seizing dictatorial power, it is true to say now that the EU is no bulwark of democracy either.

 

Robert Mugabe, the Butcher of Zimbabwe, Dies

September 8, 2019

on Friday the media reported the death of Robert Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe. Mugabe had been the leader of one of the country’s two opposition, nationalist movements against White colonial rule. There’s seems to have been more than a little optimism over his taking over the mantle of government. Ian Smith, the country’s previous president, had been so opposed to Black majority rule that he had unilaterally declared the country independent of Britain. Nevertheless, he declared that Mugabe was the best man for the job. As a symbol of the country’s new, African identity, the country’s name was changed from Rhodesia, after Cecil Rhodes, the infamous 19th century British imperialist, to Zimbabwe. This is a massive fort, dating from at least the 12th century, whose size and construction so astonished western archaeologists that it was considered the work of outsiders – the Chinese or the Arabs – before it was firmly demonstrated that it was indeed the work of the indigenous peoples, probably the Shona.

These new hopes were to be tragically and horrifically disappointed. Mugabe soon demonstrated that he was a brutal thug, determined to use violence and mass murder to hang on to power. He and the other members of his wretched party looted the country of millions, enriching themselves while they forced the mass of its people into abject poverty and starvation. Mugabe was a member, I believe, of the Shona, historically one of the weakest and most persecuted peoples in that part of Africa. Mugabe was determined to reverse this, and began his reign by attacking and butchering the Ndebele. Zimbabwean soldiers entered Ndebele villages to beat and murder their inhabitants. And it wasn’t just the Ndebele. He soon moved on to other groups and peoples. The thug’s approach to campaigning was simple. During his elections he sent his thugs into villages to break the arms of the local people. They then told them that if the didn’t vote for Mugabe, they’d come back and break their other arms.  In the early part of this century he moved on to attacking White farmers. There appears to have been some agreement with the British government during the negotiations for Black majority rule that Britain would pay a sum to the Zimbabwean government, which would then be used to buy White-owned farms, which would then be handed over to Blacks. Mugabe claimed this money had not been paid, and moved his troops in. The farms were invaded, their owners brutally dispossessed. As with the Ndebele, those who resisted were savagely beaten and killed.

This came at a time when race relations in this country were also fragile. I think it was about the same there was a general election, and once again immigration was an extremely contentious issue. Black groups, such as Operation Black Vote, were also campaigning for a greater number of Black and Asian MPs. I think part of the rise in racism at the time may well have been due these racial issues in Britain coinciding with genuine, anti-White political persecution in Zimbabwe. For those, who really fear and hate Blacks and Asians, the organised attack on the country’s White minority by its government may well have confirmed their deepest fears.

There may also have been something to Mugabe’s accusation that the money to purchase the farms properly had not been paid. When I was working as a volunteer at the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum, a fellow volunteer asked me if I knew what going on at the National Archives. He’d been there in order to study a parliamentary paper from the 1980s about the negotiations for the handover to Black rule. However, he was told it was unavailable, and wondered whether it was being deliberately kept out of circulation for some very dubious reason.

Not that this makes Mugabe any better. As Mugabe filled agriculture and industry with his thugs and butchers, the country’s economy collapsed. Inflation reached the exorbitant levels of Weimar Germany. Previously, Zimbabwe had been one of the most prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It was actually an exporter of food, and called the continent’s breadbasket. Under Mugabe, this catastrophically collapsed. There was starvation and famine, except for Mugabe and his obscenely rich gang. Zimbabweans began fleeing over the border into South Africa as illegal immigrants simply to survive.

Mugabe fought off several challenges to his leadership, including by Musaveni, before eventually conceding some kind of power sharing agreement. I think he officially retired as President a few years ago. This was cautiously welcomed, as even though Mugabe himself was gone, his successors were still members of his party, who had been willingly complicit in his crimes against humanity.

Reflecting on the old thug’s death on the breakfast news, I heard John Simpson describing how fiercely intelligent Mugabe was. He excelled in embarrassing and humiliating reports by turning the questions against them. Simpson said that every action he did was clearly well thought out in advance. I can actually believe it. Contrary to what many people actually believe, intelligence and education doesn’t necessarily make anyone more moral.

As for Mugabe himself, his death reminded me of a passage from one Tom Sharpe’s books, Riotous Assembly. Published in 1971, this was savage satire of South African police force. One of the characters in it is Constabel Els, a brutal thug, who prides himself on having killed two Blacks with the same bullet. At the book’s climax, Els is himself nearly killed preparing the scaffold for the execution of an Anglican bishop he and his superiors have framed for the murder of a Black cook. The gibbet collapses, taking with it part of the jail, and freeing the Black prisoners. Believing Els to be dead, they dance and sing:

Els is dead, Els is dead,

He’s gone to the Devil where his soul belongs.

Raper of our women. Killer of our men,

We won’t see the swine again!

I think that probably describes how many feel the way about the passing of this old brute.

Zelo Street: LBC’s James O’Brien Turns Tables on Tories over Racism and Anti-Semitism

March 7, 2019

Yesterday the good fellow at the Crewe-based Zelo Street blog put up a post discussing how LBC radio’s James O’Brien had attacked the Tories for their hypocrisy in criticising the Labour Party. for supposed anti-Semitism, while all the time allowing venomous racism to flourish in their own. This came after the blogger Racists4ReesMogg revealed a long series of tweets from internet groups set up to promote Boris Johnson and Rees Mogg as leaders of the Tory party.

The tweets were truly vile. The members of these groups discussed burning Qu’rans, throwing Muslims off bridges, bombing and closing down mosques, sterilising immigrants and the poor, debarring Muslism, and particularly Sajid Javid and Sadiq Khan from positions of government, ’cause their Muslims, along with ethnic cleansing  of such ferocity that the ‘SS Einsatzgruppen would look like a Boy Scout’s picnic’. There were racist attacks on Diane Abbott and Sayeed Warsi, along with speculation that a civil war was coming and they should all get guns and licences. And almost inevitably there were the weird conspiracy theories about the Jews. Some of them seem to believe in all that nonsense about the ‘Kalergi’ plan, a secret Jewish conspiracy to import Africans and Muslims into Europe to destroy the White race.

As a result, Tory deputy chairman James Cleverly suspended 14 members, boasting on politics live that his party takes action, unlike Labour in its handling of the anti-Semitism crisis. But Zelo Street speculates that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and that Racists4ReesMogg seems to be finding more all the time.

And then James O’Brien sharply contrasted the Tory tolerance, and even encouragement of frothing racism and islamophobia, with their sharp intolerance of supposed instances of anti-Semitism. Zelo Street quoted him as saying

“Imagine if the New Statesman published an article by Owen Jones stating baldly that there is not enough anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. What would happen? Imagine if Diane Abbott or John McDonnell came forward with comments about Jewish women being like letterboxes, or made a joke about the wigs that orthodox Jewish women wear. Made a joke that invited people to mock and condemn them”.

Imagine if John McDonnell made a joke about … the locks that Orthodox Jewish men grow, or the Yarmulkes that many, many Jewish men choose to wear. Imagine if, for example, John McDonnell said ‘Why do all these Jews walk around with frisbees on their heads?’ Explain to me how that would be substantially any different from what Boris Johnson said about Muslim womens’ sartorial choices”.

The ones that make them look like letterboxes. D’you see what I mean? That’s not even controversial, that comparison. Just imagine Owen Jones wrote an article on there not being enough anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and then how the hell Rod Liddle gets to write an article arguing that there’s not enough Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. And he’ll still get invited on to programmes and into studios, and Andrew Neil can still claim when he’s covering these issues that he’s impartial”.

And Fraser Nelson can host an event at the London Palladium with Jacob Rees-Mogg, whose fans are so vile that 14 of them have been suspended from the very party. Now just swap all of those phrases. Swap Islamophobia for anti-Semitism. Swap Rod Liddle for Owen Jones, swap Fraser Nelson for Jason Cowley … and swap Jacob Rees-Mogg or Boris Johnson for John McDonnell or Tom Watson. And you tell me that we don’t live in a country that is utterly upside down”.

Zelo Street states that the Tories have got away with it for so long because the press has been actively complicit in promoting such venomous bigotry. Like the Scum, which started off whipping up hatred against the Irish, then it was Blacks, and now it’s ‘Scary Muslims’. This press is only now stopping to think about what they’re doing. But it’s too late for the Tories, as the lid is being taken off this ugly can of worms. The Tories have every reasons to try to misdirect people to the anti-Semitism allegations against Labour. Because when this stops, people will turn and see where the real racism is. And it will not end well for the Tories.

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/03/tory-islamophobia-action-not-enough.html

There always has been a section of the Tory party whose members and views have overlapped with the real, horrific Fascists of the NF and BNP. Like Paul Staines, AKA Guido Fawkes and the Libertarians links to Latin American death squads and apartheid South Africa. But the rantings of Rees Mogg’s and Boris Johnson’s supporters reminded me in particular of the weird, paranoid conspiracist views of the Nazi ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg. Almost by definition all the Nazis were paranoid conspiracy theorists, as the whole party was based on the assumption that Jews control capitalism and communism and were working to destroy the Aryan race as a whole and specifically Germany. But in the case of Rosenberg the paranoia was particularly acute. Rosenberg was bitterly anti-Christian, and his book The Myth of the Twentieth Century was suppressed by Hitler because it was an embarrassment at the time the Fuhrer was trying to gain the support of Christian Germany. Apart from Jews, Rosenberg was also paranoid about Freemasons, Communists and nearly everybody else. At one point he was convinced that there was a secret Roman Catholic plot to seize control of Germany and install the old Catholic princes. In a party of murderous paranoid nutters, he was one of the most paranoid and nuttiest. But looking at the paranoia and frothing, venomous racism of Johnson’s and Rees Mogg’s supporters, he’d have fitted in very well there.

These people are genuinely frightening. During the mid-70s there was a plot by the editors  of the Times and Mirror, as well as the British intelligent agencies, to overthrow the minority Labour government. Left-wing MPs, trade unionists, activists and journos would be rounded up and interned, possibly on one of the Scottish islands. It never got off the ground, as leading members of the civil service and the staff at Sandhurst weren’t interested and told the plotters where to go.

But it shows how fragile British democracy really is. This was during the mid-70s, when the country was experiencing inflation, strikes and the energy crisis. Thanks to Thatcher, the unions have been smashed and inflation kept low, which is why there is so much poverty. But May’s botched and incompetent Brexit threatens to make the problem much, much worse. And as the case of Nazi Germany shows, in times of severe economic and political crisis, people look for scapegoats. We could see a massive expansion of bitter, murderous racism in this country too, accompanied demands for the full instruments of Fascist repression – internment, mass arrest, and death camps if people like the denizens of these sites and the threat they pose are not taken seriously.

John Quiggin on the Failure of Thatcher’s New Classical Economics

January 9, 2019

Very many Libertarians describe themselves as ‘classical liberals’, meaning they support the theories of the classical economists of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This rejects state intervention and the welfare state in favour of free markets and privatization. This theory was the basis of Thatcher’s economic policy before the Falklands War, as well as those of other countries like Australia and New Zealand. In all of these countries where it was adopted it was a massive failure, like trickle-down economics and austerity.

Quiggin describes how Thatcher’s New Classical Economic policy was a failure, but she was saved from electoral defeat, partly by the Falkland War on page 113. He writes

The only requirement for the New Classical prescription to work was the credibility of the government’s commitment. Thatcher had credible commitment in bucketloads: indeed, even more than an ideological commitment to free-market ideas, credible commitment was the defining feature of her approach to politics. Aphorisms like “the lady’s not for turning” and “there is no alternative” (which produced the acronymic nickname TINA) were characteristics of Thatcher’s “conviction” politics. The slogan “No U-turns” could be regarded as independent of the particular direction in which she was driving. In a real sense, Thatcher’s ultimate political commitment was to commitment itself.

So, if New Classical economics was ever going to work it should have done so in Thatcher’s Britain. In fact, however, unemployment rose sharply, reaching 3 million and remained high for years, just as both Keynesians and monetarists expected. New Classical economics, having failed its first big policy test, dropped out of sight, reviving only in opposition to the stimulus proposals of the Obama administration.

However, Thatcher did not pay a political price for this policy failure, either at the time of (the Falklands war diverted attention from the economy) or, so far in retrospective assessments. The only alternative to the “short sharp Shock” was a long, grinding process of reducing inflation rates slowly through years of restrictive fiscal and monetary policy. While it can be argued that the resulting social and economic costs would have been significantly lower, political perceptions were very different. The mass unemployment of Thatcher’s early years was either blamed directly on her predecessors or seen as the necessary price of reversing chronic decline.

New Classical Economics was a colossal failure. In fact Thatcherism, whether implemented by the Tories or New Labour, has been a failure, though New Labour was better at managing the economy than the Tories. The only reason it has not been abandoned is because of the charisma surrounding Thatcher herself and the fact that it gives even more wealth and power to the upper classes and the business elite while keeping working people poor and unable to resist the exploitative demands of their employers. And its given a spurious credibility to ordinary people through its promotion by the media.

Shirley Williams on the Industrial Democracy

January 5, 2019

Before she left with other members of the Labour right to form the SDP, it seems that Shirley Williams did have some genuinely interesting views on socialist issues some would associated more with the Labour left. Like industrial democracy.

The ’70s were the decade of the Bullock Report, which recommended putting workers on the management boards of Britain’s major industries, and this was still an issue a couple of years later. In her 1981 book, Politics Is For People, Williams discusses some of the problems of industrial democracy. She acknowledges that the trade unions were divided on the issue and management positively feared it. She also recognized that there were problems about how it could be achieved, given the complexities of the representation of the different trade unions in British workplaces on management boards. But she supported its introduction in Britain’s businesses, and suggested that it would be made easier through the information and computer technology that was then also appearing. She wrote

Through the need for participation in the introduction of new technologies, management and unions are having to establish consultative machinery where none exists. Those firms who want to move ahead quickly will achieve trade union cooperation if they offer participation in exchange; otherwise they will face resistance and obstruction. The new technologies offer an opportunity to widen industrial democracy at the plant and office level, where it matters most. Whether joint consultation at that level leads on to participation in the boardroom is a matter that can be left to each company and its unions to decide.

More difficult is the question of how the workforce in each firm should be represented. In the Cabinet committee which drew up the 1979 White Paper on industrial democracy, there were differing views on whether workers should elect their representatives to plant and company committees or whether they should be nominated by the trade unions (the ‘single channel’). The issue is far from simple. In Sweden and the Federal Republic of Germany most firms have only one trade union,, so there is no need to secure agreement among them before candidates for election can be put forward. In Britain, as many as twenty unions may represent the employees of large firms, and four or five unions in a firm are commonplace. In these circumstances, a straightforward election would be likely to lead all the representatives coming from the biggest unions, the rest being unrepresented.

But the nomination of a single list by agreement between the unions in a plant or firm offends the principle of democratic choice. The workers may object to one or more of the people selected to represent them, yet they would have no power to reject him or her other than by the rejecting the whole slate and jeopardizing participation itself. One way out of this dilemma would be for the unions in a multi-union plant to agree on constituencies representing each union on a weighted basis, with an election based on a secret ballot between candidates who were members of the appropriate union, some of whom might carry official endorsement.

Industrial democracy has not attracted consistent support from most trade unions, and the trade unions themselves are profoundly divided on the form it should take, many preferring a consultative structure to one statutory participation on the lines proposed in the Bullock Report. If the unions are divided, however, much of management feels threatened by the idea of industrial democracy. So for years there has been a stalemate on the subject, and government intervenes at their peril. Yet, if only beca8use there has to be effective consultation on technological change, the position cannot be left where it is. Indeed, in my view industrial democracy could usher in much better relations in industry, greater cooperation in improving the productivity of all factors of production and a better understanding of the need for voluntary incomes and prices policies to combat inflation. Many of Britain’s economic problems are rooted in institutional rigidities or, as in this case, institution conservatism. This one reform could bring in its wake a long-delayed rejuvenation. We should not be daunted by the difficulties, but rather invigorated by the possibilities.

Shirley Williams, Politics Is For People (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1981) 139-40.

Some of the issues Williams talks about here are very dated. Inflation is no longer the critical issue it was in the ’70s. It’s now very low, and this has caused problems in its turn. Profits and management pay have risen immensely, but this is not reflected in the salaries of ordinary workers. Quite the opposite. Their pay is still below inflation, and the result is that many of the quarter of a million people using food banks are actually in work. Mike has also today posted up a piece about how parents are starving themselves in the week because there isn’t enough to feed both them and their children on their wages. And this is not a recent development. Mike has published a number of articles about this over the past few years since the Tories took power under Cameron.

And the new technology to which Williams looked forward also hasn’t been an entirely liberating force. Some businesses instead are using to restrict and spy on their workers. Private Eye in their ‘Street of Shame’ column printed a story about how the weirdo Barclay Twins, who own the Torygraph, tried to fit the motion detectors used in call centres to monitor the movements of staff there to check to see if there hacks were leaving the desks. Other firms are fitting devices to their workers ankles to monitor their movements. And the spectre of Big Brother-style surveillance loomed even larger a month or so ago, when the I reported that a Swedish firm had developed an implantable chip that could be inserted into a firm’s staff.

British workers also don’t have the strong unions they enjoyed in the 1970s, which have left British workers vulnerable to low pay, the removal of employment rights and job insecurity.

However, Williams is right in that industrial democracy offers a genuine opportunity to empower working people, and benefit industry through proper cooperation between workers and management. It’s proper implementation won’t come from Williams and her fellows, who are now part of the Lib Dems, and who seem to have thoroughly forgotten it. It will only from Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.

‘I’ Newspaper: Some Wages Lower than in 2008

December 14, 2018

Today’s I, for 14th December 2018, has a little piece on page 2 reporting that in some areas of the UK wages are a third lower than they were a decade ago. The article reads

Wages are still a third lower in some parts of the UK than they were a decade ago, according to the Trades Union Congress. Its research suggests that the average worker has lost 11,800 pounds in real earnings since 2008. The biggest declines were in parts of London, Surrey, North Yorkshire and North Wales.

I’m not remotely surprised. Yesterday, Mike put up a piece on his blog laughing at Dominic Raab, who had scored a massive own goal by showing how wages had fallen and still not risen to their previous level under the Tories. It was one of the best pieces of political advertising that Corbyn and Labour could have wished for. But it also raises the question of how Raab could be so stupid that he thought such statistics were something to boast about.

Raab did, because he, and by implication, much of the Tory party, are so out of touch that they know no better. Raab and the others in his wretched party are very middle and upper middle class types, usually from senior management in industry, and particularly the financial sector. All the people they meet come from that same, very narrow social group. And that group welcomes low wages because it means higher profits for them. Plus the fact that the Tories have always promoted their low wage policy since the days of Thatcher by saying that wage restraint is necessary to combat inflation.

They don’t know, and aren’t really interested in knowing people from the less elevated sections of society, who are hit hard by this policy and find it difficult to cope. And so Raab and his fellow profiteers assume that low wages are such a self-evident good, that no-one will ever object if he puts up a graph showing how they’re still low. Because no-one they know, or consider worth knowing, has ever told them otherwise.

I can remember how there was a scandal about low wages back in the early 1990s under John Major. Incomes for some had risen, but those of the poorest sections of society had fallen. The Tories’ response, as satirised in Private Eye, was that someone had to be left behind. I’ve no doubt this attitude still persists. We’ve seen Tory politicos respond more recently to complaints of increasing poverty by arguing that this has nevertheless created Britain’s strong economy (sic). Well, it’s a strong economy that benefits only the super-rich one per cent.

Raab and his cronies are a disgusting, out of touch, predatory and complacent elite. Get them out!