Posts Tagged ‘Interest Rates’

John Strachey’s Socialist Programme

July 11, 2016

Strachey Socialism pic

The Socialist writer and activist, John Strachey, laid out his programme for a radical reform of society and the economic system in his 1940 book A Programme for Progress (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd). He was deeply impressed with Roosevelt’s New Deal in America, which formed the second part of his book. The third was devoted to Fascism, its connections to monopoly capitalism, and why it had led the world into war. He was acutely concerned with the way the banks and financial sector worked, not to benefit society, but to keep the whole capitalist class in power at the expense of the rest of the population. He therefore wished to see the banks taken over by the state, and subject to fundamental reform so that the operated a zero, or very low interest rate, which would benefit working people, and the country as a whole, rather than just generate profits for the wealthy.

He laid out his six point programme at the beginning of ‘Chapter XII: Conclusions’. These were

(1) The promotion of all kinds of public, or mixed, investment and enterprise, which is not, or is not wholly, dependent on the expectation of profit as its incentive.

(2) The lowering of the rate of interest to all intending borrowers, thus making investment and enterprise more attractive to all private borrowers at a given expectation of profit, and more possible to all public borrowers.

Both these expansionist measures should be financed, so long as general unemployment exists, by the methods which will be made possible by the fifth and sixth measures of this programme.

(3) The redistribution of income from the rich to the poor, effected by means of those kinds of taxation which are not mainly, or not at any rate not entirely, reckoned as a part of the costs of production (e.g. death duties).

(4) The payment of greatly increased pensions and allowances, and other social services, so long as general unemployment exists, out of newly created money rather than out of taxation.

(5) The development of a national, and public, as opposed to a commercial and profit-making banking system.

This is the decisive point in the programme. Unless this is accomplished, nothing else can be done. for the secure establishment of a genuinely national, public and non-profit-making banking system would mean that the main stronghold of that financial, and essentially monopolistic, interest which is to-day strangling the life of the community had fallen. That interest is the parent of Fascism. Leave it in control, and political reaction is bound to follow. Break it by united and well-directed popular action, and the road to progress is open.

(6). A strict public control over the balance of foreign payments.

This measure, too, though not so central as the fifth point is indispensable. For it alone provides an adequate protection against the counter-offensive which monopolistic finance is certain to loose against any progressive programme.

Without these last two measures of control it is not, then, possible to take the four former measures, designed to increase general purchasing power and so effectively to combat the curse of the unemployment of the working population.

It must be clearly understood that such a programme as this is not put forward as a substitute for the more familiar proposals of the progressive parties, such as the raising of wages, the shortening of hours, the institution of holidays with pay, the nationalisation of this or that industry, the democratisation of our political system, the development of a democratic foreign policy, etc. On the contrary, the above-described expansionist programme is submitted for serious consideration as providing an indispensable economic basis, without which all the other invaluable work of a progressive government will inevitably be wasted. (pp151-3).

Ha-Joon Chang in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, in one of the very first chapters shows that state industries can not only be profitable, they are also more stable than conventional companies, run for the benefit of the shareholders, as the state has a vested interest in their continued profitability and operation. Shareholders, on the other hand, are interested in immediate, short term profits, and will pull out if the company experiences difficulties. He notes specific cases where companies have destroyed themselves through their refusals to invest in new plant and machinery, and actually sold off their assets and shed staff, in order to keep the share price high, until they’ve killed themselves off through their own cost-cutting.

Strachey is also right about the financial sector. It is not geared to investment in the UK, as has been argued over the years by very many socialist politicians, including Neil Kinnock in his book, Making Our Way. The current austerity regime has been inflicted because of the massive incompetence of the financial sector, brought about through decades of right-wing administrations demanding greater deregulation, culminating in Labour’s ‘light touch’. The banks have been bailed out and their profits assured, at the expense of everyone else. In Europe, Greece is being looted and remains prostrate at the extreme of poverty because of ruthless austerity measures imposed on them by the European banking system. And then there’s the continuing scandal of the massive debt repayments demanded of the nations in the Developing World.

I don’t know if Strachey’s financial reforms would work, but we desperately need to curb the power of the banks and make sure they serve us, rather than the other way round.

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Theresa May and the Faux-Feminism of the Tories

July 10, 2016

Okay, it appears from the latest developments in the Tory leadership contest that their next leader will not only be a woman, but probably Theresa May. May’s currently, I think, the Home Office Minister. Another Tory authoritarian, she’d like the spooks to have access to all our telecoms information to stop us joining ISIS and abusing children. Or at least, that’s what she says. Either way, she represents the continuing expansion of the secret state and its determination to pry into every aspect of our lives. Just in case we’re doing something illegal. In the polls Thursday night or so she won something like 144 votes compared to Andrea Leadsom’s 86 and Michael Gove’s 43. There was a shot of her at one of the party rallies, which showed Ian Duncan Smith, the former Minister in Charge of the Murder of the Disabled looking up at her with the same kind of rapture you see in pictures of Rudolf Hess at Nuremberg as he introduces Adolf Hitler.

May as the Modern Thatcher

The papers on Friday were full of the news of her probable victory. The Torygraph ran the headline, ‘If you want something said, go to a man. If you want something done, go to a woman’. Presumably this was a quote from May herself, trying to position herself as a go-getting woman of action, ready to sort out the mess the men have left. It’s also intended to get her support from Britain’s women. Look, she and her PR gurus are saying, I represent all the women in Britain, and their drives and frustrations in trying to get the top job. And I’ve done it, and, so vicariously, have Britain’s women through me. Vote for me, and we’ll sort Britain out again. The Mirror summed up her probable victory with the headline ‘Another Thatcher’.

That’s true, and it looks very much like the Tory party is trying to hark back to Margaret Thatcher’s victory way back in 1979, and the thirteen years of flag-waving, prole-bashing that unleashed. Thatcher was Britain’s first, and so far, only female Prime Minister. Her election was instrumental in getting the Tories female support, and presenting their agenda of poverty, welfare cuts, joblessness and general immiseration as somehow empowering and progressive. It presented a faux-feminist veneer to what was an acutely traditionalist party. Thatcher did not see herself as a feminist, but nevertheless, her lackeys in the press ran features on her deliberately aimed at women and gaining their support. When she was ousted, Germaine Greer, who had been bitterly critical of her time in No. 10, wrote a piece in the Groan ‘A Sad Day for Every Woman’. And this propaganda line continued with other female Tories afterwards. I can remember a piece in the Mail on Sunday discussing what politics would be like in a female dominated House of Commons about the time Virginia Bottomley joined Major’s cabinet. It imagined Britain as an anarcho-capitalist utopia, where everything was privatised, and instead of the police neighbourhoods hired private security guards. And it ran the notorious factoid that’s been repeated and debunked ever since: that managing the country’s economy was like running a household. Women, so the article claimed, automatically had a better understanding of how the economy should be run through their role controlling the household budget. It’s actually rubbish, as the Angry Yorkshireman, Mike over at Vox Political and a number of left-wing economists and bloggers have repeatedly pointed out. For example, when budgeting for a household, you try to avoid debt, or pay it off as quickly as possible. But no-one has wanted to pay off the national debt since at least the late 18th century, and governments contract debts all the time with the deliberate intention of stimulating growth, as well as having the ability to manipulate circumstances in ways that the average householder can’t. They can, for example, affect the economy by setting the value of their currencies in order to promote exports, for example. The Japanese have deliberately kept the Yen weak in order to make their exports less expensive and so more competitive on foreign markets. They can also alter, or affect exchange rates to control public expenditure outside of immediate state spending. Ordinary people can’t do any of this. But nevertheless, the lie is repeated, and as we’ve seen, believed. A little while ago a man in the audience at Question Time challenged one of the politicos there with not running the country properly. He claimed it should have been obvious to anyone who’s had to run a household. Or possibly their own business.

Women Suffering the Most from Tory Misrule

In power, Thatcher – and the Tories’ policies in general – have hit women the hardest. Women tend to work in the poorest paid jobs, those least unionised, and so with the fewest protections. They are also more likely than men to be active as carers, with the immense responsibilities and pressures that entails. The Tories’ austerity policies have seen more women laid off, and more suffering cuts to hours and pay, with worsening conditions. These have been inflicted on male workers and carers as well, of course. I personally know blokes as well as women, who’ve been put on zero hours contracts, of have had to fight battles with the DWP to get disability benefits for their partners. Women haven’t been solely hit by any means, but they have been especially hit.

Tory Feminism only for the Rich

But I’ve no doubt that the Tories will try to hide all that, and positively divert attention away from it, by pointing to the success of May in finally getting to No. 10. It’ll be presented as another crack in glass ceiling preventing women from getting the top jobs. I’ve also no doubt that there will be some noises about making sure that business, industry and parliament becomes more representative of the country. There will be loud announcements about getting more women into parliament, on the boards of business, and in male-dominated areas such as science and engineering.

But this will all be done to give power and jobs to women from May’s background: well-heeled, well-educated middle class public school gels from Roedean and the like. Rich, corporate types like Hillary Clinton in the US. It isn’t going to be for women from council estates and comprehensive schools, ordinary women working back-breaking jobs in factories, as care home staff, nurses, cleaners, shop assistants, office workers and the like, all of whom are increasingly under pressure from the government’s austerity programme. They, and the men alongside whom they work, doing the same jobs, aren’t going to be helped by the Tories one little bit.

The Thin Veneer of Tory Liberalism

May’s faux-feminism is part of a general thin fa├žade of progressivism, which the Tory party occasionally adopts to promote itself. Cameron came to power pretending to be more left-wing than Tony Blair. When he took over the Tory party, he made much about shedding the party’s image of racism and homophobia. He cut links with the Monday Club, went around promoting Black Tory candidates. Gay MPs were encouraged to come forward and be open about their sexuality. In power, he ostentatiously supported gay marriage, presenting it as Tory victory, even though it had practically already been introduced by Tony Blair in the guise of civil partnerships. Cameron and IDS wanted to be seen as liberal modernisers. But all their reforms are extremely shallow, designed to disguise the rigidly authoritarian and hierarchical party underneath. A party determined to make the poor as poor as possible for the corporate rich.

Generational Differences in Voting

Looking through the stats with friends on Friday, it seems that there’s a marked divergence in political attitudes between young women, and those over 55. The majority of women over 55 tend to vote Conservative, according to the stats. I know plenty who don’t, and so this can be challenged. My guess is that, if this is accurate, it’s probably due to the fact that women generally haven’t worked in the kind of manual trades occupied by men, which require considerable solidarity and so have produced strong union bonds, like mining, metal work and so on. It’s also possibly partly due to the prevailing social ideology when they were born. There was a marked lull in feminist activity between women finally gaining the vote in 1928 or so and the rise of the modern women’s movement in the 1960s. During those forty years, the dominant social attitude was that women should concentrate on their roles of wife and mother. Many firms in this period would not hire married women, a practice which caused immense hardship to women, and families generally that needed two incomes to make ends meet. Also, generally speaking, support for the Tories is higher amongst pensioners.

Younger women are more likely to be left-wing and socialist. If correct, this generally follows the trend of the younger generation being more idealistic and progressive than their elders.

I hope that despite all the pseudo-feminist verbiage and lies the Tories will spout from now onwards, trying to make themselves more presentable to the nation’s female voters, women will recognise them for what they are, and vote them out. As soon as possible.

Private Eye’s Review of Rees-Mogg Snr’s ‘Picnics on Vesuvius’

March 31, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has posted a piece criticising the views and career to date of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory MP for part of BANES in Somerset. His constituency includes Bath, and, I think, part of Keynsham, a small town between there and Bristol.

Rees-Mogg is one of the new bugs, who came in with Cameron. Private Eye covered him in their ‘The New Boys’ on-off column. He’s a tall man, with impeccable patrician manners and the same air of condescension towards the lower orders. Which is just about everyone else. Mike cites a description of him as ‘the minister for the early 20th century’. It’s entirely apt. He cuts a strangely Edwardian figure, as if someone from the first few decades of the last century somehow fell through time to emerge nearly a century later, to be bemused by the strange technological devices, manners and ever-so-slightly vulgar social conventions.

He began his political career charging about Scotland, campaigning for the Tories in a Scots mining town. He announced that his platform was to convince the Scots that they vitally needed an unelected, aristocratic Second House. Clearly, his constituents and just about the rest of the country north of the border decided that they didn’t. No doubt he encountered some extremely forthright views while canvassing them.

He has gone to Glyndebourne, the great operatic festival in Kent. While there one sunny day, he got his wife and nanny to stop him getting sunburn by holding a book over his head. I’m as surprised that he actually wasn’t embarrassed to mention this as I am that he actually did it in the first place.

Rather more seriously, the extremity of his right-wing views are shown by his membership of the Traditional Britain group. This is another bunch of rightists, who stand for the restoration of the traditional feudal hierarchy, the absolute destruction of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS, and absolutely no immigrants. And particularly not Muslims. They were last seen a few years ago on the fringes of UKIP’s annual conference. You also see them posting on the anti-Islam, ‘counter-jihadist’ site.

Young Jacob is the son of William Rees-Mogg, a former columnist for the Independent and then subsequently the Times. In 1992 Rees-Mogg pere published his magnificent octopus, Picnics on Vesuvius: Steps Towards the Millennium. It was then reviewed and suitably done over by Private Eye in their literary column. Here it is:

Scrambled Mogg

Just before Christmas, William Rees-Mogg wrote his last column for the Independent. Some bolshie sub gave it the derisive headline: ‘Is this the end of life as I know it?’ Henceforth his compositions will be appearing in the Times.

Senior staff at the Independent are heartbroken. From the launch of the paper, they have found him such a dependable guide to the meaning of life, the universe and everything. All you need to do, they discovered, is read Rees-Mogg’s columns carefully and then believe exactly the opposite. It never failed, they say tearfully. Now they don’t know what to think.

At least Rees-Mogg has left behind this treasury of past triumphs, so we can look back and admire the almost supernatural accuracy of his forecasting. On 22nd January 1992, for example, looking into Fergie’s tea leaves, Rees-Mogg wrote: ‘Nor do I believe for a moment that the duchess’s antics, innocent as they seem to be, are doing any damage to the monarchy. the question of the future of the crown is a non-question; it is all got up by the press.’ Put a few ‘nots’ in there, in the right places, and this was an almost uncannily far-sighted assessment.

Or again on 11 march 1991, when base rates were 13 per cent, Rees-Mogg warned ‘any further reduction in interest rates is likely to restart a major house boom’. Indeed! Or rather – not! For those lucky few sharing the secret of how to interpret Rees-Mogg, this was priceless information.

No less inspired was his evaluation of Robert Maxwell on 11 November 1991, concluding: ‘I am glad he was buried yesterday on the Mount of Olives, which is a place of grace. I shall remember him with affection …’ To the initiated, there could hardly have been a more savage condemnation.

Yet is not just for his power of prediction that we must revere Rees-Mogg. Rather, it is for the sheer grandeur of his style, the way he sweeps so impressively from the tiniest detail of his own life to the great questions of history, with scarcely a pause – in fact, let’s admit, with never a pause – between.

Who else would are begin an article (‘Landmarks in a Life Which Has Seen the Shadow of War Lifted’) like this: ‘On my tenth birthday, 14 July 1938, I was given an ice-cream cake with a cricket-bat and ball on top; it was big enough to be shared with the 30 boys in the my house at school. Four months before, Hitler had invaded Austria … Two months after my birthday, Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich’?

At the time, Rees-Mogg was probably alone in realizing which was the critical date of the three. Now we are all privileged to share that thrilling perspective – and there are many such moments here.

Truly, he is a man of destiny. ‘Destiny has a way of making itself,’ he says here in passing of his own marriage. She may have been his secretary, but it was meant.

It is this sublime confidence in himself, as a Mogg and a Wessex man, that permits him to take such long views, not just from year to year, but from century to century, millennium to millennium, into eternity indeed. For Rees-Mogg, it just all joins up.

So what does the great seer foresee? Good news! He foresees dooooom.

Yup, things are going to be OK! Who would have thought it?

According to Rees-Mogg, the world is facing imminent economic and social collapse, what with the slitty eyes beavering away, mugging getting out of hand, overpopulation, nuclear proliferation, Aids and all.

On Aids, says Rees-Mogg with a touch of justifiable pride, he has done ‘special work’. There’s a whole section about it here, and his conclusion is, as ever, that only religion can save us: ‘Christian morality is a strategy for survival’, you see. Condoms are useless. ‘The “unzip a condom” approach to the HIV epidemic reminds me of the filter-tip response to the issue of cigarette smoking and cancer,’ he says scornfully.

There may be those who will say that this remark shows that Rees-Mogg, for his wisdom, is a little out of touch with modern life. After all, they might observe, most condoms these days use the more comfortable button-fastening; zips are hardly ever seen.

But this is petty quibbling. Of the basic truth, that only becoming a Catholic right away can avert the end of the world, there can be no doubt. The millennium is coming, you see. ‘By the year 2000’ is Rees-Mogg’s favourite way of beginning a sentence. ‘As we approach 2000 years after Christ, this ancient human fear of some final calamity is not as unthinkable as it would have seemed 50 years ago,’ he says.

Only a ‘worldwide spiritual revolution’ can help. Only the Pope can resist Islam. Only saints, and sages from Somerset, can lead us now.

Travelling the country, he met some black people once. ‘I was particularly touched by the young black boy, with the scars of handcuffs on his wrists, who said to me: “It6 must be grand to be a lord.”‘

What he seems not to realize is that we all feel like this about him. Our gratitude is bottomless. For as he says, ‘saints are so important in the spread of religious belief. They profess their faith, but their conduct is the real evidence of its truth.’ Yes, indeed.

‘I am certain that we are all eternal spirits, with an eternal purpose, ‘Rees-Mogg tells us. ‘We are all like eggshells filled with spiritual realities we cannot begin to understand, filled indeed with the whole glory of Heaven.’

Some of us hardboiled, some soft, other poached, and a few are scrambled, but we all can, if we choose, entere the new year and eventually the next millennium, hand in hand with Lord Rees-Mogg.

From: Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion, ed. and introduced by Francis Wheen (London: Verso 1994) 293-4.

I don’t share the writer’s hostility to religion, or their apparent hostility to Roman Catholicism, although that may just be an entirely suitable comment on Rees-Mogg’s own, rather sectarian religious beliefs, which clearly discount anyone else’s who isn’t a Roman Catholic. It does, however, show the lofty patricians tone Rees-Mogg’s views, and explains why Rees-Mogg junior is the way he is.

And with any luck, Rees-Mogg fils will be another Tory looking for a job after May 7th.