Posts Tagged ‘Job Precarity’

Fabian Pamphlet From the 1980s: What Women Want are Left-Wing Policies

February 3, 2018

For a very brief period in the 1980s I was a member of the Fabian Society. The other day I managed to dig out of my collection of old Fabian pamphlets one by Patricia Hewitt and Deborah Mattinson, entitled Women’s Votes: the Key to Winning, published in 1989.

I haven’t read it yet, but the first page, in the introduction, astonished me by completely challenging the received wisdom about women’s voting preferences. As Hewitt and Mattinson point out, women have been considered far more Conservative politically than men. But at the last general election (1987), they supported the Labour party and left-wing policies just as much as men. The Introduction runs

The Labour Party needs women’s votes in order to win the next election. The evidence suggests that these votes can be won but the Party must persuade women that it will not only stand by it values but also carry out its policies when in government.

Until quite recently, it was accepted political wisdom tht women were more conservative than men. Within the labour movement, women voters were widely blamed for electing Mrs Thatcher and it was believed that a future Labour victory would depend more on men than on women.

Before the 1987 general election, the Conservatives generally did better amongst women than amongst men. The reverse was true for Labour. There was a ‘gender gap’, and it worked in the Tories’ favour.

That has now changed. In 1987 Labour closed the gender gap for the first time. There is good evidence for believing that, in future, Labour will do better amongst women voters than amongst men.

We start by looking at the 1987 and 1983 voting patterns to analyse Labour’s relative strength amongst women and men, and amongst different groups of women. We then look in more detail at women’s and men’s values and attitudes, drawing on recent opinion polling and qualitative research, including a series of small discussion groups undertaken especially for the Fabian Society and reported in this pamphlet.

Next we examine attitudes to issues and suggest the policy areas on which Labour should concentrate, before turning to proposals for how Labour can become more representative of women. Finally, we briefly consider unplublished and published material from Australia and the USA, where the Australian Labor Party and the American Democrats are reaching similar conclusions to our own.

The evidence strongly suggests that women voters are more likely to share and respond to Labour’s values than men. They are more likely to vote for an ‘enabling’ state which intervenes to protect the environment, regulate business and industry, redistribute income and wealth, provide a high level of social and welfare services, and promote greater equality between women and men. Increasingly, women are Labour’s natural constituency. (Emphasis mine.)

This bears out the ideology behind much of the right-wing, Conservative, and Libertarian misogyny in the US. The Libertarians, right-wing Republicans like Anne Coulter, and the Fascists in the Alt-Right, would like to deprive women of the vote partly because they see them as more left-wing than men, and more willing to expand the power of the state. Which challenges their notion of freedom under classical liberal economics, in which the ideal state is that of the mid-19th century.

It also shows why millions of women did not vote for Killary. For all Clinton’s promotion of herself as a feminist representing women, she signally did not. She was a bog-standard, corporatist politician and foreign policy hawk. Her gender made absolutely no difference whatsoever to the policies she promoted and espoused. She was far too right-wing for many American women, who voted with their feet. And they did so not because they were told to by their husbands and boyfriends, as Killary later claimed, or because of misogyny by nonexistent ‘Bernie Bros’.

The same goes for the female Blairites in the Labour party. They’re simply a continuation of Blair’s pro-corporate, neoliberal programme, which was basically just reheated Thatcherism with sickly grin. The comments by some of these female faux ‘moderates’ that they will be even harder on the unemployed than the Tories is not going to impress ordinary working women, already doing the worst paid jobs and, like working men, suffering from precarious unemployment conditions.

And this shows how desperate and threadbare the corporate, mainstream media has been in pushing the narrative that the Labour party under Corbyn, and Bernie Sanders’ supporters in the Democrats in America, are misogynists. Because they aren’t, and the neoliberal entryists know it. Hence too the portrayal by some of these corporatist women to draw a difference between themselves, representing the glorious middle-class, pro-woman future, and male-dominated, working class Old Labour.

The truth is, women seem to be more left-wing than corporatist, neoliberal shills like Hillary Clinton, Angela Eagle and the rest of the post-Blair faction in the Labour party. And its frightening them, and the rest of the Right-wing establishment. And so we’re left with stupid lies about misogyny and intimidation from them and the corporate media.

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Coughlan Tears into the Embittered Snowflakes of the Daily Heil’s ‘Comments’

December 20, 2017

Perhaps this is another way of dealing with the Daily Mail and its pernicious influence on our politics and culture. As well as refuting its lies and scare stories, perhaps we should also mock its readership when they write in to express resentful, envious and sneering views about those they deem not to be as deserving as themselves. As in the comments Coughlan reads out here, which seem to be all by members of the older generation attacking the younger for not grinning and putting up with snow and cold weather like they had to in their youth.

Coughlan’s a stand-up comedian, who has put up a lot of really great stuff on his YouTube channel tearing the Far Right into gory chunks, and defending anti-racism and anti-sexism from the manosphere and, well, people pretty much like these. He starts out by noting how the various figures on the extreme right have been moaning about how hard done by they are. Like Milo Yiannopolis losing his job, Nigel Farage complaining that he’s ‘dirt poor’ despite earning £90,000 a year, and Anne Coulter that she’s single. As Coulter is viciously critical of anyone even slightly to her left, and so right-wing that she thinks that women shouldn’t have the vote, it’s probably no surprise that eligible men aren’t queuing up at her door. Be warned – Coughlan’s language is colourful – he’s an edgy, modern comedian – and he makes some coarse jokes at Coulter’s and Farage’s expense.

In this video he tackles the comments posted on the Daily Mail’s site on the subject of schools having to close because of the snow. The Mail stated hysterically that ‘hundreds’ of schools had been forced to close. He rightly points out that this is nothing. There are thousand upon thousands of schools in the UK, so it’s hardly the mass chaos the Heil is trying to paint it. And then come the comments. They all seem to come from older readers, disgusted at the wimpishness of today’s generation, and harking back to their youth when they still had to go to school in the snow, to endure unheated, literally freezing classrooms and outdoor urinals(!). Oh yes, and one of them complains that the reason the schools are close is because otherwise the children will be able to sue them for accidents. So we’re back to the old, right-wing canard about health and safety legislation.

Coughlan observes that these embittered curmudgeons sound very much like the ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch from Monty Python. You remember the one: four Yorkshiremen in very elegant dinner suits, smoking cigars and drinking brandy, compete with each other to make the most extreme claims of the poverty they suffered when they were children. So he goes on to read out the comments in a spoof ‘northern’/’Yorkshire’ accent.

He also points out occasionally where these poor, resentful souls are wrong and haven’t remembered things properly. For example, one of them claims that schools never closed for snow when he was young. Wrong. Coughlan remembers when they did. I went to school in the ’70s and ’80s, and they certainly closed when we had very severe weather round about 81, 82-ish. And like Coughlan, I remember listening to the radio to see if our school would be one of those, which would not be opening that day. In this particular instance, school was open and we had to go in as normal. But not for long. After waiting in our coats in class while the staff debated what to do, we were all finally sent home. Trudging through town to the bus stop, I can remember one of the workers from one of the firms we passed asking us we weren’t in school, clearly thinking we were bunking off. So we told him the truth – that school had been cancelled. He simply replied with ‘Oh, all right,’ and got back to work.

Back to the Daily Mail, the comments here show something of the ugly attitude of the Mail’s readers. They clearly see themselves as unfairly treated by history or circumstances, and resent young people for apparently enjoying better treatment or conditions than themselves. And they very definitely see themselves as more deserving. They come across very much like the sneering elderly Harry Enfield used to lampoon on his show. ‘These young people, they don’t know they’re born’. ‘No’. ‘I say to them, ‘Do you know you’re born”. That was one of Enfield’s comments about this type of sad old soul.

Most of the older people I’ve met have expressed the exact opposite views to these people. I’ve been told by retired people, that they wouldn’t like to be young today for various reasons. A few years ago this was because of the threat of drugs. Or the dangers of the Net, and paedophiles and bullying on social media. I’d also include the terrible unemployment rate, the mass poverty created by the wage freeze and exploitative working conditions, like zero hours contracts. As well as the crushing weight of student debt and the housing crisis, which means that many will never get to own their own home. At very many levels, young people today are worse off, sometimes very much worse off, than their predecessors.

And most of the older generation know this, and are sympathetic. Most people, I think, actually want their children and grandchildren to enjoy a higher standard of living than them, and not to have to suffer the same awful conditions they had. Like grotty, freezing toilets.

Except the Daily Mail. They seem to see themselves as being so much more worthy than everyone else, and bitterly jealous of any indulgent or simply better treatment of the younger generation. Hence the sneering at them as ‘snowflakes’. Not that this attitude is confined merely to this subject. It runs through the Mail’s readership as a whole, and the people they attack and sneer at for being supposedly more privileged than they are include public sector workers, trade unionists, teachers, single parents, those on benefits, and Blacks and Asians. Because ‘political correctness’. It’s a seething mass of right-wing resentment, stirred up against anyone the Tories and the Mail decide should be the next target to keep ordinary people divided and fighting against each other, rather than wake up and realise that the people, who are really keeping them poor, are the Tories. The Tories stir up and use this jealousy and resentment in order to garner support for destroying more of the welfare state, and passing more legislation making jobs even more precarious.

The Mail’s a disgrace. It promotes nothing but hatred, ignorance and bigotry, for a corrupt, exploitative party. A party that should have been voted out of power long ago, and whose lies and threadbare excuses are becoming even more evident by the day.

Jess Phillips, Racism, Misogyny, and the Public School Feminism of New Labour

September 18, 2016

Oh, the irony! Jess Phillips, who regularly accuses her critics of misogyny and claimed she was building a Safe Room because of the abuse levelled against her, has now herself been accused of racism and misogyny. One of her victims was Mike, over at Vox Political, because he dared to suggest that misogynistic abuse perhaps wasn’t the real reason she was having it built. Now Mike has put up a piece from EvolvePolitics about Phillips herself being accused of misogyny and racism, after it was revealed that she played a leading role in having Dawn Butler replaced as chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party. Phillips disliked her holding the post, because she wasn’t an opponent of Corbyn. But Phillips has form in trying to get the few women of colour to hold posts in the Labour party removed from their positions. Last year she also had a row with Diane Abbott, in which she told the Shadow Health Secretary to ‘F*ck off’.

Jess Phillips’s feminism called into question – why is it all right for HER to target women?

I can’t say I’m surprised at her attitude. This seems to follow the sociological origins of many of the New Labour female MPs. Most of these seem to come from the upper and upper middle classes. They’re public school girls, who like the idea of expanding democracy, greater representation and rights for women and ethnic minorities, while at the same time supporting all the policies that keep the working and lower middle classes down: cuts to welfare benefits, job precarity, and the privatisation of essential services. This all follows Tony Blair’s copying of Bill Clinton’s ‘New Democrats’, who also talked about doing more for women and minorities, while at the same time supporting Reagan’s economic and welfare policies. The sociological origins of the journalism staff in the Groaniad, who have also been pushing the New Labour line against Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum in recent weeks. After they published various pieces lamenting that so few people from working class backgrounds were rising up to higher positions in society, in management and so forth, Private Eye published a little piece about the backgrounds of the paper’s own managers and journos. They were all, or nearly all, very middle class, and privately educated. This isn’t really surprising. Gladstone way back in the 19th century was very relaxed about the press not stirring up revolution in Britain, because most journalists back then were from propertied backgrounds. The book, Confronting the New Conservatism, attacking the Neocons and their pernicious influence on politics, noted that part of the problem was a broad consensus across the American ‘Left’ and ‘Right’, in support of deregulation, welfare cuts and privatisation, along with admiration for Britain, and a support by the middle class elites for affirmative action programmes as long as they didn’t affect their own children.

In short, they like the idea of equality, except when it challenges their own privileged position. As for Phillips’ racism, real or perceived, that’s also similar to the attitude adopted by one of the architects of the ‘New Democrats’, Hillary Clinton. Clinton for some reason is extraordinary popular amongst Black Americans. As part of her presidential campaign, she met a group of Black celebs, in which she tried to impress them by mentioning how much she liked hot sauce. Apparently, this condiment is a stereotypical favourite of Black folks. A lot of people weren’t impressed, and found her attitude distinctly patronising. There were sarcastic comments asking why she didn’t also say she liked fried chicken and watermelons. More serious, however, is the fact that Clinton was the architect of the punitive anti-drugs legislation, that has resulted in a much higher incarceration rate for Blacks, despite drugs being used by the same proportion of Blacks and Whites. She also made a speech about the threat of urban ‘superpredators’, when that term was almost exclusively used for Black gangs.

The sociological origin of New Labour female MPs also explains the accusations of misogyny aimed at Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. The basic line seems to be that ‘Old’ Labour, based in the male-dominated heavy industries, was nasty, patriarchal and therefore sexist. There’s an element of truth in it, in that traditional gender roles were much stronger generally, and women very definitely had an inferior position. However, this was changing in the 1980s. John Kelly, in his book Trade Unions and Socialist Politics (London: Verso 1988), has a section, ‘Still a Men’s Movement?’ discussing the growing presence of women in the trade unions and the way these were adopting an increasing number of feminist policies as a result. For example, in 1985 32 per cent of TUC members were women. In some unions, the majority of members were female, such as COHSE, 78 per cent; NUPE, 67 per cent; and NALGO, 52 per cent. He notes how a number of unions ran women-only courses, and were adopting policies on sexual harassment, low pay, shorter working time, equal opportunities and equal work for equal pay. He notes that sex bias in job evaluation and sexual discrimination were still not receiving the attention they should, but nevertheless the unions were moving in the right direction. (pp. 134-6). Of course, the occupations in which women are strongest are most likely to be white collar, administrative and clerical jobs, rather than manufacturing. But nevertheless, these stats show how the trade unions, and therefore the organised working class, were responding positively to the rise of women in the work force. If you want a further example of that, think of Ken Livingstone and the GLC. Livingstone’s administration was known for its ‘politically correct’ stance against racism, sexism and discrimination against gays. Red Ken devotes an entire chapter in his book, Livingstone’s Labour, to feminist issues, including his proposal to set up a nationwide network of bureaux to deal with them, ‘Sons of the Footbinder’, pp. 90-111. Among the pro-women policies he recommends the Labour party should adopt were

* A universal scheme of pre-school childcare for all parents who would wish to use it.
* Equal pay for work of equal value.
* A properly funded national network of women’s centres.
* A properly funded national scheme for the remuneration of carers.
*Full equality before the law.

Livingstone was one of the most left-wing of Labour politicians. So much so that he was accused of being a Communist. Hence Private Eye’s nickname for him, ‘Ken Leninspart’. Now the Blairites are trying to twist this image, so that they stand for women’s equality and dignity, against the return of Old Labour in the face of Jeremy Corbyn and his misogynist followers. This could be seen the in a bizarre letter published in either the Graun or the Independent, in which Bernie Saunders, the left-wing Democratic contender for the presidential nomination, and Jeremy Corbyn were both accused of being sexists, because they wore baggy, more masculine clothes, suggesting their ideological roots in the masculine blue-collar milieu of the 1950s, before women and gay men started affecting fashion. Private Eye put it in their ‘Pseud’s Corner’ column, but it reflects the attitude of the middle class feminists given space in those newspapers to attack Jeremy Corbyn and genuine traditional Labour.

The fear, of course, is not that Corbyn or his supporters are misogynists. That’s a convenient lie that was copied from Hillary Clinton, who made the accusation against Bernie’s supporters after they correctly identified her as a corporate whore. She is. She takes money from the corporations, in return for which she passes policies in their favour. Just like the majority of American politicians, male and female. In fact the fear of Clinton and the rest of the Democratic party machine, and New Labour over here, is that the corporatist system they are partly responsible for creating, and their own privileged position as members of the upper classes, are under threat from a resurgence of working class power and discontent from the Left. And despite the growing presence of women in the unions, Blair and New Labour despised them. It was Blair, remember, who threatened to cut their ties to the party, and was responsible for passing further legislation on top of the Tories to limit strikes, and deprive working people of further employment rights.

When Blairite MPs like Phillips make their accusations of sexism at Corbyn and his followers, they are expressing the fears of the middle classes at losing their privileged position, as members of that class, and its control over the economy and society. It’s made somewhat plausible to many women, because as a rule women were much less unionised than men, and the most prominent union leaders have tended to be men. But it’s a distortion of history to hide their own concerns to hang on to their class power. When Phillips and female Blairites like her talk about feminism and female empowerment, they’re expressing the same point of view as Theresa May. It’s all about greater empowerment for middle and upper class women like themselves, not for the poor, Black, Asian or working class.