Posts Tagged ‘Laissez Faire economics’

Tony Benn on Capitalism’s Failure and Its Use as System of Class Control

January 6, 2019

I put up a long piece the other day about two books I’d bought by Tony Benn, one of which was his Arguments for Socialism, edited by Chris Mullin (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1979). Benn is rightly revered as one of the great champions of socialism, democracy and working people of the late 20th and early 21st century. Reading the two books I ordered has been fascinating, because of how so much of them remain acutely relevant to what is going on now, in the last years of the second decade of the 21st century. It struck me very hard that you could open his books at random, and find a passage that would still be both highly enlightening and important.

One such passage is in the section of his book, Arguments for Socialism in the chapter dealing with the inheritance of the Labour party, where he deals with Clause IV. This was the section of the Labour party’s constitution which committed it to the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. This was removed in the 1990s by Tony Blair in his desire to remodel Labour as a capitalist, Thatcherite party. Benn however fully supported nationalization and wished to see it expanded beyond the public utilities and the coal and steel industries nationalized by the Attlee and later governments. This was to be part of a genuine socialist programme to benefit and empower working people. He also argued that this was necessary because capitalism had not produced the benefits claimed by its early theorists, and was simply maintained because it was a useful instrument of class control by the capitalists themselves, particularly the financial section. Benn wrote

The phrase ‘common ownership’ is cast widely enough to embrace all forms of enterprise, including nationalized industries, municipal and co-operative enterprises, which it is envisaged should provide the basis for the control and operation of manufacturing, distribution and the banks and insurance companies.

In practice, Labour programmes and manifestos over the years have focused primarily on the great monopolies of financial, economic and industrial power which have grown out of the theoretical operation of a free market economy. For the ideas of laissez-faire and free enterprise propounded by Adam Smith and carried forward by the Manchester School of Liberal Economists until they reappeared under the new guise of monetarism, have never achieved what was claimed for them.

Today, capitalist monopolies in Britain and throughout the world have long since ‘repealed the laws of supply and demand’ and have become centres of political power concerned principally with safeguarding the financial investors who have lost the benefits of shareholder democracy and the great self-perpetuating hierarchy of managers who run them. For this purpose they control the media, engage in direct propaganda and on occasions have been found guilty of corrupt practices on a massive scale or have intervened directly to support governments that will allow them to continue their exploitation of men and materials for their own benefit. (Pp. 41-2).

This has been thoroughly proved by the last four decades of Thatcherism and Reaganomics. The shareholder democracy Thatcher tried to create through the privatisations of the ’80s and ’90s is a failure. The shares have passed out of the hands of the working class investors, who bought them, and into those of the traditional capitalist middle class. Shareholder democracy within companies has also been shown to be extremely flawed. A number of companies have spectacularly gone bankrupt because of serious mismanagement. The directors put in place to safeguard the interests of shareholders either ignored or were participants in the dodgy schemes of the managers they were supposed to supervise. Furthermore, in many companies while the numbers of workers have been cut and conditions for the remaining staff has deteriorated with lower wages, the removal of workers’ rights and zero hours contracts, management pay has skyrocketed.

And some economists are now turning against the current economic consensus. Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism has shown that laissez-faire capitalism doesn’t create prosperity, economic growth and jobs. He still supports capitalism, but demonstrates that what genuinely does work to benefit countries and the majority of their people economically is state intervention. He shows the benefits of nationalization, workers’ participation in management and protectionism. The American economist, John Quiggin, has also attacked contemporary laissez-faire Thatcherite, Reaganite capitalism, arguing very clearly that it is so wrong it’s intellectually dead, but still justified and promoted by the business elites it serves. He calls it in the title of his book on it, Zombie Economics, which has the subtitle How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us.

Thatcher’s much vaunted monetarism was effectively discarded even when she was in power. A friend of mine told me at College that Thatcher had quietly abandoned it to try to stimulate the economy instead through the old Keynsian methods of public works. And I can still remember the controversy that erupted in the early ’90s when Milton Friedman announced that monetarism was a failure. The Heil devoted a double-page article to the issue, one page arguing for it, the other against.

Tony Benn was right. Monetarism and the laissez-faire capitalism of Thatcher and Reagan was simply a means to entrench and give more power to the financial class. State intervention, nationalization and proper trade union representation were the way to protect the interests of working people. It’s long past time the zombie economics of the Blairites, Lib Dems and Tories was finally consigned to the grave, and a proper socialist government under Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders elected in Britain and America instead.

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Eisenhower’s Speech Warning about the Military Industry Complex

September 20, 2018

This short video from RT, posted on YouTube, was under the title ‘Speeches that Still Matter’. It’s American president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speech of January 17th, 1961, warning America about the threat posed by an unrestrained military-industrial complex.

After a few words about the structure of society at the beginning of the snippet, Eisenhower declares

We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

It has become one of the classic speeches in modern American history, and is referred to whenever activists and politicians criticize the military-industrial complex. Because since Eisenhower’s time, it has grown and seized power. The American military machine and armaments industry sponsors American politicians, and generals, senior civil servants and politicians frequently take up positions on the boards of armaments firms after their military or political career has ended. And the American government gives billions, if not trillions to its weapons manufacturers and armed forces.

I’ve read left-wing analyses of this situation which suggest that this is a deliberate policy of the American government to stimulate the economy. It’s a form of Keynsianism, but as the right-wing ideology of free trade and laissez-faire prevents the government from openly stimulating the economy through public works projects and a proper welfare support network that allows the poor enough to purchase the goods and services they need, which will also stimulate production and industrial growth, the only way the government can actually do so is by giving more and more money to the arms industry.

And all those planes, tanks, ships, missiles, guns and bombs have to be used.

The result is endless war in which small countries in the Developing World are invaded and their leaders toppled, their industries and economies plundered and seized by American multinationals, and Fascist dictators or sham democracies are installed instead. All in the name of giving more profits to the military machine. If you want an example, think of the close connections between the Bush family and the massive industrial conglomerate Haliburton.

When Martin Luther King said in one of his speeches that America was the chief exporter of violence in the world today, he had a point. And our government under the Tories and Blair has been no better. Blair lied to us to get the support of the British public for the Iraq invasion. Maggie Thatcher promoted British arms exports, as did Blair, as did Cameron, drooling all over the ‘wonderful kit’ produced in that BAE factory in Lancashire.

And all the while ordinary people have seen services cut and the infrastructure of countries – roads, railways and so on – left to decay by the profiteering firms that should be maintaining and building them. There are cuts to public services and even more attacks on welfare payments, all in the name of ‘austerity’, ‘making work pay’ and the other lies and buzzwords used by the right to justify their impoverishment and victimization of the poor. And this is done to give massive tax cuts to the already bloated rich.

It’s high time this was stopped, the military-industrial complex reigned in, the wars for their profits ended, and the government invested instead in proper economic growth, domestic industries, infrastructure, public services, a proper welfare state and medical care, and giving working people a proper, living wage.

Vince Cable Spread Anti-Semitism Smears to Boost Support for Lib Dems

April 6, 2018

More lies and smears, though from the Lib Dems this time, rather than the Tories. Vince Cable has declared that anti-Semitism is exceptionally severe in the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn. And so his party will definitely not go into coalition with a Labour government.

A Lib Dem leader saying that he won’t go into coalition with a Labour government! Well, colour me surprised! as the late, great Bill Hicks used to exclaim ironically. Like the last time the Lib Dems refused to go into coalition with the Labour party, and instead got into bed – metaphorically – with Dave Cameron and the Tories. Mike states that Cable knows that this is rubbish. In fact, under Corbyn, anti-Semitism has actually decreased in the Labour party, while outside Labour in Britain generally it has actually risen. But like the Tories, the Lib Dems are showing that they see no need to spoil a useful lie with an awkward truth.

And somehow, I really don’t think this is the real reason the Lib Dems don’t want to go into partnership with Labour. After all, they lied about their reason for going into coalition with the Tories. According to them, it was because they didn’t want Gordon Brown to be the head of the Labour party. In reality, they’d already told the Conservatives they were going to go into coalition with them long before they publicly turned Labour’s overtures down, citing Brown’s continued leadership as their excuse.

The Lib Dems have been trying to turn themselves into another far right, Thatcherite party. The Orange Book of the Lib Dem right, which supplants John Stuart Mill’s classic On Liberty, takes its name from the colours of the 19th century Manchester school. The same Manchester school of economics that Mussolini boasted of supporting when he first took power in Italy. In other words, it’s complete laissez faire, free trade liberalism with as little state intervention as possible. The Lib Dem MP for Taunton Dean in Somerset wrote a book just before the last election making pretty much the same arguments as the noxious authors of Britain Unchained. You know the sort of thing: Brits must tighten their belts and work harder, have fewer welfare benefits and lower wages in order to compete with working people in being similarly screwed by neoliberalism in the Developing World. This came from a public schoolboy, who no doubt would have screamed blue murder had someone made the point many economists are now making, that western managers are vastly overpaid.

The simple reason is that Cable is another wretched Thatcherite neoliberal, who doesn’t want to go into coalition with a Labour party under Corbyn, because Corbyn wants to undo the Thatcherite consensus and return Britain to the social democratic arrangement which gave Britain jobs, a welfare state and prosperity from the end of the War to Thatcher’s election.

I also wonder how this will affect some of the members of his own party. A little while ago I came across a book promoting the anti-Semitism smears against Labour by Dave Rich, and leading member of the Israel lobby. This claimed that the left’s anti-Semitism began in the late ’60s with criticism of Israel, including by the left-wing of the Liberals. Which begs the question: is Cable now going to lead a purge of Lib Dems, who criticise Israel and its murderous ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, just like the Blairites have done in Labour?

And if we’re talking about racist violence, Cable himself was an economist with Shell, I believe, when that western oil company was hiring mercenary squads to murder and beat tribespeople in the Niger delta in Nigeria, who were protesting about the company’s pollution of their water supplies. Cable wasn’t responsible for the policy, but he clearly didn’t let it get in the way of working for them.

And I also recall reading in a Fabian pamphlet in the 1980s how one of the brutal South American Fascist regimes was also apparently a member of the international Liberal group of parties. In Germany in the same decade there was a massive scandal when it came out that the German Liberal party, the Freie Demokraten, or Free Democrats, were absolutely nothing of the sort, and had been heavily infiltrated by neo-Nazis. Alongside Liberalism’s veneration of John Stuart Mill and democracy, there’s a side that is every bit as nasty as the Tories. And this side seems to be dominant under Cable.

The founders of the Labour party were convinced that both the Liberals and Conservatives should be treated equally as enemies of the working class. The Liberals stood for the middle classes and business, while the Tories originally stood for the Anglican Church and the aristocracy. Neither of them represented the 95 per cent of the population, who in the 19th century constituted the working class. And it was the Liberals, not the Tories, who set up the workhouses under the New Poor Law. Lloyd George and the Liberals laid the foundations of the welfare state, which the Tories have been trying since Thatcher to destroy. And under Vince Cable, it seems the Lib Dems are trying to join them.

Cable clearly is quite happy with the continuing privatisation of the NHS, and a privatised electricity grid and railways, which offer substandard service at inflated prices for the benefit of their mostly foreign company directors. At the same time, he also wants to cut wages and state benefits, to make Britain’s working people even poorer. And I’ve seen no evidence that he wants to do anything about the welfare to work tests, which have seen tens of thousands of disabled people starve to death after being wrongly judged ‘fit for work’. He hasn’t condemned benefit sanctions, which do the same to unemployed generally. And he certainly hasn’t made any noises at all at reducing the debt burden on students. Labour brought in tuition fees, but they were increased immensely by Nick Clegg. He then claimed it was Cameron’s idea, when it was the opposite. Cameron apparently was prepared to concede their removals to the Liberals. But they were advocated by Clegg.

In the 1920s and ’30s, the Liberal party began to position itself as the centre ground between the Tories and Labour, and could thus appeal to both depending on circumstances. During the Lib-Lab pact in the mid-70s, they helped shore up a minority Labour government.

But those days are long gone, it seems. Now they’re doing their best to be indestinguishable from the Tories, just like New Labour tried to continue Thatcher’s policies.

There’s no reason for any working person in Britain to vote for them.
A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the Tories.
Ignore the lies and smears, and vote for Corbyn instead.

Hugo Rifkind Declares Anti-Semites Attracted to Left because of Anti-Capitalism

March 31, 2018

Hugo Rifkind is the son of Maggie’s cabinet minister, Malcolm Rifkind, so it shouldn’t surprise us that he espouses the same noxious politics as his father. He is like Boris Johnson in that he also has higher view of his own intelligence than he deserves. He once turned up on Mike’s blog trying to argue against him, only to run away when he started losing.

He turned up in the pages of the Spectator last week holding forth on the latest anti-Semitism smears against Corbyn and Momentum, a snippet of which was duly quoted in the I’s ‘Opinion Matrix’ column of selected short pieces from the rest of the press. Rifkind junior opined that, rather than trying to rebut the allegations of anti-Semitism, the Labour leader should reflect on why so many anti-Semites were attracted to anti-capitalism. It was all out of jealousy of more successful ethnic groups, he breezily declared.

Now it’s true that there, and always have been, anti-Semites amongst the Left. I found a book by one very Conservative writer in one secondhand bookshop about how many of the founders and leaders of early socialism were anti-Semites. It was clearly polemical. The argument running implicitly through such books is that because many of its leaders were anti-Semitic, socialism is intrinsically anti-Semitic. Which isn’t the case. Anti-Semitism is there, but it’s actually far less than on the right. And the Tories and their puppet media definitely don’t want you knowing that.

British Fascism grew out of right-wing, Die-Hard Conservatism at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. It was fiercely anti-immigration, especially against Jews, who were held to be unassimilable orientals, like Muslims today. It spawned a range of racist organisations like the British Brothers’ League, and became particularly acute during the First World War, when Jewish industrialists of German origin, like Alfred Mond, were suspected of favouring Germany over Britain. While the Tories have subsequently tried to purge their party of racists and anti-Semites, they are still very much present.

It’s also a matter of considerable debate how anti-capitalist Fascism is. When Mussolini became president of Italy, he was backed by the industrial and financial elite, and declared that his party stood for Manchester economics – in other words, free trade. The corporate state he created, which boasted of having trade unionists and employers together in a Chamber of Fasci and Corporations, never did anything more than rubber stamp his own decisions as Duce. It was also designed to smash the power of the unions by leaving them under the control of the managers and proprietors.

In Nazi Germany, the Socialists, Communists and Anarchists were rounded up and sent to the concentration camps along with other dissidents and racial groups, including the mentally ill, male homosexuals, prostitutes and the disabled. So were trade unionists after the Nazis smashed them. And far from nationalising industry, as claimed by Conservatives in America and Britain, Hitler actually privatised a greater number of state-owned enterprises than other European governments at the time. He also made speeches hailing the biological superiority of the owners and leaders of industry, and declared his full support for free trade and competition, although later on he subjected industry to a weak form of corporatist organisation and imposed a rigid system of central planning.

The problem can therefore be reframed by asking why so many people on the right, believing in free trade and private property, are attracted to anti-Semitism? Part of the answer, it seems to me, is that they believe that free trade and private industry are the perfect system. The argument is that, if left alone by the government, industry will be run efficiently, workers receive their proper wages, people of talent will rise to the top, and society will become increasingly prosperous and well-organised.

When the opposite is true, when wages are falling and businesses closing, right-wingers look around for a scapegoat. They go a little way to realising that the fault is the capitalist system itself, but violently reject socialism itself. Hitler set on calling his party ‘Socialist’ because it appealed to those, who only had a hazy idea what the word meant, and as a deliberate provocation to real Socialists. They may reject laissez-faire free trade and impose some restrictions on private industry, such as subjection to central planning. But their critique of capitalism, in the case of the Nazis and the Fascist groups influenced by them, was based firmly on the notion that it was fundamentally good. It was just being undermined by the Jews. Thus Hitler in a speech started out by ranting about how the Nazis would overturn the exploiters, and throw their money boxes out into the streets. But he then turned this around to say it was only Jewish businessmen, who were the exploiters they would attack. Aryan Germans were entirely good, and respected their racial fellows in the workforce. They would not suffer any attack by Hitler’s thugs.

But Rifkind and the rest of the Tory party, and the Thatcherite entryists of the Blairites, really don’t want you knowing about all this. It would confirm too many ideas about racism in the Tory party, and their hypocrisy in the latest anti-Semitism smears.

They are using these smears to deflect attention away from the increasingly obvious failure of laissez-faire, neo-liberal capitalism. Don’t believe them, and their hypocritical smears and lies.

Jorian Jenks and the Fascist Arguments for a Jewish Homeland

March 21, 2018

On Sunday night, Lobster put up my review for them of Philip M. Coupland’s Farming, Fascism and Ecology: A Life of Jorian Jenks (Abingdon: Routledge 2017). Jenks was the son of a Liberal lawyer, but from childhood he always wanted to be a farmer. After studying at agricultural college in Britain, he then went to New Zealand to seek his fortune there. He couldn’t acquire a farm, and so worked as an agricultural official for the New Zealand government. He returned to Britain to begin an agricultural career over here, becoming one of the pioneers of the nascent Green and organic movements.

Jenks was convinced that laissez faire economics was creating massive soil erosion and infertility. If this was not checked, mass starvation and famine would result. He believed that Britain should concentrate on developing its own agriculture to the fullest extent possible, and not live ‘parasitically’ from the produce of its colonies. This was disastrous for them, and forced the peoples of those colonies into poverty as they were forced to subsidise the production of the goods they exported to the motherland. Jenks wished to see a return to an organic, agricultural society to replace the passive proletariat into which working people had been depressed. He was bitterly critical of the influence of finance capitalism, which he believed manipulated politics from behind the scenes. Due to its covert influence, democracy was a sham.

Jenks was sincere in his desire to improve conditions for farmers and farm workers, and was part of a series of non-party political organisations which worked to accomplish this, whose members also included socialists. He joined the BUF and wrote several articles for their magazine, and drafted their agricultural policy, because he found that Mosley’s ideas for the regeneration of British agriculture were very much in line with his own. Mosley’s went much further, however, and demanded the establishment of an agricultural corporation which would include representatives of the farmers, farm workers’ union, and consumers, as part of a Fascist corporative state.

Jenks was a founder member of the Soil Association, but because of his Fascist politics, he’s obviously an extremely controversial figure. Coupland’s book notes how Jenks has been used by figures on both the Left and Right to discredit the Green movement, and how he was denounced by the present head of the Soil Association, Jonathan Dimbleby.

Jenks is therefore interesting as the subject of a biography, not just in himself, but also in the wider context of British politics, Fascism and the emergence of the British and global Green movement. He was in contact with the leaders of similar movements around the world, including America and New Zealand, where the heads of these organisations were Jewish, as well as Germany. There much of the early Green movement disgustingly appears to have been founded by Nazis like Walter Darre, the head of Hitler’s agricultural department and ‘Reich Peasant Leader’.

Jenks was also a vicious anti-Semite. He actually didn’t write or say much about the Jews. However, some of the passages where he does talk about them are chilling, as the language used is very close to genocidal, if not actually well into it. Coupland writes

Several times Jenks also paralleled the issue of agricultural vermin to the ‘Jewish problem’. On one occasion, he compared these two issues, writing that: ‘There can be no truce with Brer Rabbit any more than there can be with the undesirable alien. If he is tolerated, he takes possession. He gives no quarter and should be given none. Of the rabbit, Jenks wrote:

[s]o long as you don’t have to foot the bill it’s easy to be sentimental about him as it is to be sentimental about the Jews. But the result in each case is that the poor defenceless creature ultimately takes possession. Any sensible person will agree that the best way to stop cruelty to rabbits is to abolish them, and if modern methods could be systematically applied, abolition is by no means impossible.

A year or so later, Jenks commended Colonel Leonard Ropner, MP for his denunciation in the House of Commons of rabbits as ‘a plague’ and for his statement that ‘If virtual extermination cannot be obtained, the next best thing is to provide effective control.’ In a scarcely veiled reference to the Jews, he continued that [t]he attitude of British Union towards the rabbits is similar to its attitude towards the two-legged plague – Britons First.

Given the shadow cast over history by the German programme to exterminate the Jews during the Second World War, it is difficult to read these lines without imputing to Jenks a desire that Jews and rabbits should share the same fate. However, even in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, this was not the objective of policy, no matter how cruel and unjust the treatment of the Jewish people there, systematic murder only replaced the policy of forced emigration in the particular conjunction of circumstances from 1941 onwards. Jenks was clear about what was required for the Jews:

There is then but one solution; to remove anti-Semitism by removing the Semite, to relieve irritation by removing the irritant,, to end the circumstances which have made the Jew a parasite by bringing about the re-integration of the Jewish nation.

He suggested this might be achieved in one of the ‘sparsely-populated but fertile areas in Africa, in South America, in Asiatic Russia, in which a re-united Jewish race could create anew its nationality and establish a new home.’ This echoed BUF policy, as detailed in Mosley’s Tomorrow We Live, which demanded the compulsory resettlement of Jews in Britain to a territory other than Palestine. Jenks’ prescription for the Jewish future was additionally connected to his central assumption that a healthy national society was one rooted in the soil:

In regaining contact with the soil, it would set the Jewish character on a broader basis; in regaining national dignity, it would triumphantly fulfil its racial destiny. In withdrawing its disturbing influence from other nations, it would obtain peace and goodwill in place of strife and animosity. (Pp. 103-4).

I’m writing about his vile views of the Jews, and recommendations that they be expelled and given a homeland elsewhere, in order to criticise and attack one of the other arguments used to smear Mike and very many other, decent people as anti-Semites because they had the temerity to mention the Ha’avara Agreement. This was the brief pact Hitler made with the Zionists to send Jews to Palestine, then under the British Mandate, before the Nazis decided on their vile ‘Final Solution’ in 1942. But according to the Blairites and the Israel lobby, if you mention this, as Ken Livingstone did, you’re an anti-Semite. Mike did, as part of his defence of Livingstone in his ‘The Livingstone Presumption’, and like Red Ken, he was duly smeared.

It is an historical fact, however, that many of the people, who demanded a separate homeland for the Jews were anti-Semites and Fascists. They wanted them to be given a homeland elsewhere as a way of removing them from their real homelands in Europe. And the last paragraph, in which Jenks describes how the Jewish people would benefit from having a homeland of their own, is actually very close indeed, if not identical, to the aspirations of the Zionists themselves. They too hoped that anti-Semitism would cease if Jews became like other peoples and had a homeland of their own. And Mike, Red Ken and the others, who discussed this, were not anti-Semites for doing so. The smears against them were a vicious attempt by the Israel lobby to suppress and rewrite history in order to deal with their opponents in the Labour party.

It’s time Mike and the other decent people, who’ve been libelled and smeared, had justice and were reinstated. And for those, who libelled them instead to be investigated and brought to account for their libels.

My review is at Lobster 76. Go over to the Lobster site, click on ’76’, and then click on article when it appears on the contents.

The Nazis, Capitalism and Privatisation

November 9, 2017

One of the tactics the Right uses to try to discredit socialism is to claim that the Nazis were socialist, based largely on their name and the selective use of quotes from Hitler and other members of the Nazi party.

This claim has been repeatedly attacked and refuted, but nevertheless continues to be made.

In the video below, Jason Unruhe of Maoist Rebel News also refutes the argument that the Nazis were socialists by looking at the economic evidence and the Nazis’ own policy of privatising state-owned industries and enterprises. He puts up several graphs showing how the stock market rose under the Nazis, as did the amount of money going to private industry. Indeed, this evidence shows that the Nazis were actually more successful at managing capitalism than the democratic, laissez-faire capitalist countries of Britain and the US.

Then there is the evidence from the Nazis’ own policy towards industry. He cites a paper by Germa Bel in the Economic History Review, entitled ‘Against the Mainstream: Nazi Privatisation in 1930s Germany’. In the abstract summarising the contents of the article, Bel states

In the mid-1930s, the Nazi regime transferred public ownership to the private sector. In doing so, they went against the mainstream trends in Western capitalistic countries, none of which systematically reprivatized firms during the 1930s.

He goes further, and makes the point that the term ‘privatisation’ actually comes from Nazi Germany. It’s the English form of the German term reprivatisierung.

I am very definitely not a Maoist, and have nothing but contempt for the Great Helmsman, whose Cultural Revolution led to the deaths of 60 million Chinese in the famines and repression that followed, and unleashed a wave of horrific vandalism against this vast, ancient countries traditional culture and its priceless antiquities and art treasures.

But Unruhe has clearly done his research, and is absolutely correct about the capitalist nature of German industry under the Third Reich. Robert A. Brady, in his The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937) also described and commented on the privatisation of industry under the Nazis.

He states that the organs set up by the Nazis to ‘coordinate’ the industrial and agricultural sectors were specifically forbidden from giving any advantages to the state sector rather than private industry, and that state industry was handed over to private industrialists.

The same picture holds for the relations between the National Economic Chamber and the organs of local government. As Frielinghaus has put it, “The new structure of economics recognises no differences between public and private economic activity….” Not only are representatives of the various local governments to be found on both the national and regional organs of the National Economic Chamber, but it is even true that local government is co-ordinated to the end that economic activities pursued by them shall enjoy no non-economic advantages over private enterprise.

The literature on this point is perfectly explicit, being of a nature with which the general American public is familiar through numerous utterances of business leaders on the “dangers of government competition with private enterprise.” Under pressure of this sort the Reich government and many of its subsidiary bodies have begun to dispose of their properties to private enterprise or to cease “competition” with private enterprise where no properties are at stake. Thus the Reich, the states and the communes have already disposed of much of the holdings in the iron and steel industry (notably the United Steel Works), coal and electric power. Similarly, support is being withdrawn for loans to individuals wishing to construct private dwellings wherever private enterprise can possibly make any money out the transactions. True, the government has been expanding its activities in some directions, but mainly where there is no talk of “competition with private enterprise”, and with an eye to providing business men with effective guarantees against losses. (Pp. 291-2).

There is a serious academic debate over how far Fascism – both in its Nazi and Italian versions – was genuinely anti-Socialist and anti-capitalist. Mussolini started off as a radical Socialist, before breaking with the socialists over Italian intervention in the First World War. He then moved further to the right, allying with Italian big business and agricultural elites to smash the socialist workers’ and peasants’ organisations, and setting up his own trade unions to control the Italian workforce in the interests of Italian capital.

Ditto the Nazis, who banned the reformist socialist SPD – the German equivalent of the Labour party – and the Communist party, and destroyed the German trade unions. Their role was then taken over by the Labour Front, which also acted to control the workforces in the interests of capital and management.

As for Hitler’s use of the term ‘socialist’ and the incorporation of the colour red, with its socialist overtones, into the Nazi flag, Hitler stated that this was to steal some of the attraction of the genuine socialist left. See the passage on this in Joachim C. Fest’s biography of the dictator. The incorporation of the word ‘socialist’ into the Nazi party’s name was highly controversial, and resisted by many of the party’s founders, as they were very definitely anti-socialist.

Brady himself comments on how the Nazis’ appropriation of the term ‘socialist’ is opportunistic, and disguises the real capitalist nature of the economy. He writes

the principle of “self-management” does appear to allow the business men to do pretty much what they wish. The cartels and market organisations remain, and have, in fact, been considerably strengthened in many cases. These are the most important organisations from the point of view of profits. The larger machinery is, as previously indicated, primarily designed to co-ordinate police on threats to the underlying tenets of the capitalistic system. The fact that the new system is called “socialism,” and that “capitalism” has been repudiated, does not detract from this generalisation in the slightest. The changes made to such as worry compilers of dictionaries and experts in etymology, not economists. For the realities of “capitalism” has been substituted the word “socialism”; for the realities of “socialism” has been substituted the word “Marxism”; “Marxism” has,, then, been completely repudiated. By reversing the word order one arrives at the truth, i.e. “socialism” in all its forms has been repudiated and capitalism has been raised into the seventh heaven of official esteem.

And the structure of Nazi Germany, where there were very close links between local and state government and industry, and where private industry and big business were celebrated and promoted, sounds extremely similar to the current corporatist political system in Britain and America. Here, political parties now favour big business over the public good, thanks to receiving donations and other aid, including the loan of personnel, from private firms, and the appointment of senior management and businessmen to positions within government. While at the same time pursuing a policy of deregulation and privatisation.

And this is without discussing the murderous Social Darwinism of the Reaganite/ Thatcherite parties, including Blairite New Labour, which has seen the welfare safety net gradually removed piecemeal, so that hundreds of thousands in Britain are now forced to use food banks to survive, and around 700 desperately poor, and particularly disabled people, have died in misery and starvation thanks to the regime of benefit sanctions and the use of pseudo-scientific procedures by ATOS and Maximus to declare seriously and terminally ill people ‘fit for work’.

The Blairites, Tories and their Lib Dem partners have set up a system of secret courts, in which, if it is considered ‘national security’ is at stake, individuals can be tried in secret, without knowing what the charges against them are, who their accuser is, or the evidence against them. Cameron and May, and indeed Tony Blair, followed Thatcher’s lead in trying to destroy the unions, and have put in place progressively stricter legislation against political protests.

Meanwhile, under the guise of combating ‘fake news’, internet companies like Google and Facebook are trying to drive left-wing, alternative news networks and sites off the Net.

The Code Pink and Green Party campaigner, Vijay Prashad, gave a speech in Washington, where he stated that Trump could be the last president of the US. If he doesn’t destroy the world, the political processes that are operating under him could result in him being the last democratically elected president, should the elites get tired of democracy.

Trump’s regime is certainly Fascistic, particularly in the support it receives from racist, White supremacist and openly Nazi organisations. If the business elites bankrolling the two parties do get tired of democracy – and due to their pernicious influence Harvard University has described the current American political system as an oligarchy, rather than democracy – then the transition to real Fascism will have been completed.

And where the Republicans go in America, the Tories over here in Britain duly follow.

Vote Clegg for More Tory Government

April 26, 2015

I heard this week that Nick Clegg has said that if there is another hung parliament, he’ll talk to the Tories first about forming a coalition. If this is true, then it tells you everything you need to know about why you should not vote Lib Dem in this election.

Much of Clegg’s election campaign has been based around his statement that the Lib Dems are centrist party, and that whichever party is in power, they will restrain them from going too far.

Frankly, this is a lie. I’ve seen absolutely no evidence for this, and a lot against it. It seems the Lib Dems have enthusiastically supported all of the wicked, illiberal, punitive and destructive legislation introduced by Cameron, from the continuing piecemeal privatisation of the health service, to the establishment of secret courts, the vicious cuts to the welfare budget that are leaving people literally starving to death. Along with restrictions on the use of legal aid and the massive rise in university tuition fees.

Clegg is an ‘Orange Book’ Lib Dem. As several of the commenters have pointed out, this takes its name from the extreme laissez faire section of the 19th century Liberal Party, who rejected any kind of state intervention. The Orange Book has a chapter which recommends the privatisation of the NHS. Clegg has much in common with the Tories. So much so that they’re basically indistinguishable.

A vote for the Lib Dems under Clegg means a vote for the return of the Coalition. And that just means ‘More of the same’, in the words of the great Max Headroom. And that’s enough to give anyone a stammer, not just the computer generated.

Social Darwinism in the 19th Century and in Cameron’s Britain

October 13, 2014

Very many bloggers and political commenters, such as Mike over at Vox Political, Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman and myself, have made the point that the Tories are Social Darwinists. This is the ideology, founded in the 19th century by the philosopher Herbert Spencer, that demanded total laissez-faire capitalism and promoted the ‘survival of the economic fittest’. Just as Darwin’s theory of evolution by Natural Selection was held to prove that in nature, evolution proceeded through the survival of the fittest in a state of competition and conflict between individuals and species, so Social Darwinists believed that human social and biological evolution should be promoted through unrestrained economic competition, which should allow people of superior talents to rise to the top of society and keep the less talented masses in their place. Millionaire industrialists were thus celebrated, and attempts to improve the conditions of the poor through legislation, such as regulating working conditions, housing and medicine decried as detrimental to the proper, beneficial working of capitalism.

The philosopher Mary Midgley includes examples of the statement of Social Darwinist attitudes from Spencer’s closest followers themselves in her book, Evolution as a Religion: Strange Hopes and Stranger Fears. Midgley herself isn’t an opponent of evolution. The book was written against the way Darwin’s theory had, in her view, been distorted into a quasi-religious form to support malign and dehumanising ideologies like Social Darwinism, or the belief that human culture and action are somehow ultimately the product of our genes.

The first quote comes from George Sumner’s The Challenge of Facts of 1887:

The millionaires are a product of natural selection, acting on the whole body of men to pick out those who can meet the requirement of certain work to be done … It is because they are thus selected that wealth – both their own and that entrusted to them – aggregates under their hands … They may fairly be regarded as the naturally selected agents of society for certain work. They get high wages and live in luxury, but the bargain is a good one for society. There is the intensest competition for their place and occupation. This assure us that all who are competent for this function will be employed in it, so that the cost of it will be reduced to the lowest terms.
(P. 118).

This could well come from a Tory in Britain, or Republican spokesman in America today. There’s the same idealisation of the rich, and the demands that they are the socially and biologically superior ‘creators of wealth’, who should be allowed to enjoy their riches unconstrained by the state. Hence the demands by the Right, including UKIP, that the rich should have their tax burden reduced.

She then quotes the American historian, Richard Hofstadter, on the way Social Darwinism was invoked to prevent any legislation that would improve the lot of the poor by placing constraints on the power of the wealthy:

Acceptance of the Spencerian philosophy brought about a paralysis of the will to reform … Youmans (Spencer’s chief American Spokesman) in Henry George’s presence denounced with great fervour the political corruption of New York and the selfishness of the rich in ignoring or promoting it when they found it profitable to do so. ‘What do you propose to do about it?’ George asked. Youmans replied ‘Nothing! You and I can do nothing at all. It’s a matter of evolution. Perhaps in four of five thousand years evolution may have carried men beyond this state of things’. (p. 119).

The role of Social Darwinism and its malign conception of evolution are too well-known, and too connected to Nazism, for politicians to openly make comments like this in today’s society. Nevertheless, the idea that intense, unrestrained competition somehow conforms more to human nature than Socialism, regardless of the form it is in, nevertheless forms a strong component of Conservative ideology on both sides of the Atlantic even today.

Explaining the Rise of UKIP

May 12, 2014

UKIP Book pic

Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support For The Radical Right in Britain, by Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin (Abingdon: Routledge 2014) traces the history and changing fortune of UKIP from its foundation in 1991 as the Ant-Federalist League to today, when the party appears to have overtaken the Lib Dems to take its place as one of Britain’s leading the parties. It’s part of a series of texts published by Routledge on the theme of ‘extremism and democracy’. Most of these books are devoted to the Fascist and racist Right, though it also includes a book on Left-wing terrorism, general political extremism, and studies of terrorism in America, from the KKK to al-Qaeda. A fair bit of the book is statistics taken from sociological and political surveys, dealing with political, social and economic attitudes and electoral performance. Most of these are straightforward, but not exactly easy or riveting reading. Much more interesting is the history of the party itself. It also includes sample quotations from UKIP supporters explaining their reasons for supporting the party, and rejection of the three others.

Leadership Challenges and the Referendum Party

It covers the various leadership struggles, including perma-tanned talk show host Robert Kilroy-Silk joining the party, only to leave after failing to take control. It also suffered in its early days from competition from James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party, a true single-issue party that solely existed to campaign for a referendum on Europe. With the advantage of Goldsmith’s considerable fortune behind it, UKIP was very much the poor relative, lagging behind the Referendum Party in both funding and publicity.

UKIP, the BNP and the Conservatives

It also looks at the way UKIP has changed its name and identity as it has tried to differentiate itself both from the BNP and, rather more gradually, the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative party. It’s founder, Dr Alan Sked, was a Liberal and historian at the London School of Economics. He became a Eurosceptic during the 1980s when running the European Studies course at the LSE. Sked stated that ‘I just kept meeting all these bureaucrats and other Euro-fanatical academics who came to give papers, politicians from different parts of Europe, and reading endless MA theses on the EU. I just came to the conclusion that the whole thing was mad.’ (p. 21). Sked was influenced by Thatcher’s ‘Bruges speech’, in which she attacked the dangers of Euro federalism, and joined the Bruges group. The authors describe this as ‘a right-wing think tank that received financial backing from Sir James Goldsmith’. Sked called the new group the Anti-Federalist League as he intended it to follow in the footsteps of Cobden and Bright’s anti-Corn Law league in the 19th century. Sked states ‘I thought it would be the equivalent of the anti-Corn Law League. Just as the anti-Corn Law League converted [Robert] Peel to free trade, the anti-Federalist league would convert the Tory Party to Euroscepticism and British independence.’

As an anti-EU, anti-immigrant, but ostensibly not a Fascist party, UKIP’s progress has been overshadowed by the BNP. After the League’s failure in the 1992 elections, it was re-launched with its present name. The ‘UK’ was chosen instead of ‘British’ in order to differentiate it from the British National Party, who had just captured council seats in London’s East End. Since then the party has suffered a series of controversies over the activities of racial extremists in its ranks, one of whom was a mole for the BNP. Sked himself left the party he founded because he believed it had been heavily infiltrated by the Nazi Far Right. In the 2009 European elections Farage himself admits he was under pressure from a faction in the party, including members of the National Executive Committee, led by the tennis player, Buster Mottram, and by some Conservative MEPs to do a deal with the BNP. UKIP had suffered badly from competition with the BNP. The deal would preserve the party from competition and defeat by the BNP by dividing the country between them. UKIP would have free reign in the south, while the BNP would concentrate on the north of England. In fact part of UKIP’s success since 2010 has come from their active competition for votes from the BNP. In Oldham Paul Nuttall targeted the members of the White working class, who were not racist, but voted for the BNP because no-one else was representing them. Farage said of this strategy:

We [said] on the doorstep: ‘If you’re a BNP voter cause you’re a skilled/ semi-skilled worker who thinks his job has been seriously impinged upon, his income’s gone down, his local community’s changed and he’s not happy with the make-up of the local primary school, whatever it may be. If you are a BNP voter for those reasons but you don’t support the BNP’s racist manifesto and you are effectively holding your nose at voting BNP, don’t vote for them, vote for us. We are a non-racist, non-sectarian alternative to the British National Party.’ It was the first time that we ever said to BNP voters: ‘Come and vote for us.’

It could be said of this approach that the BNP was approaching the White voters, whose attitude is ‘I’m not racist, but …’

Lord Pearson and Anti-Islam

Pearson of Rannoch, the party’s leader in 2010, was also known for his vitriolic views against Islam, which he sees as fundamentally incompatible with the British tradition of gender equality and democracy. He invited Geert Wilders to Britain to present his film, Fitna, to parliament. The book discusses these views, and the impact they had on the party.

UKIP’s Neoliberal and Anti-Socialist Domestic Policies

The party has also had to struggle to forge its own identity rather than act as an off-shoot of the Tories. Sked founded it to act as a pressure group on the Conservatives, and at various times the party’s election strategy has been strongly geared towards influencing them. Under Pearson, the party deliberately did not contest seats where there was a Eurosceptic Conservative candidate, and a full-fledged alliance with the Tories was mooted. The book’s authors consider that it was finally in their election manifesto of 2010, where the party outlined their domestic policies, that UKIP became a radical right party in its own right. The authors write

For the first time they went into a general election with relatively detailed proposals on domestic and foreign policy and a costed economic programme, all of which were organised around four central principles: personal freedom; democracy at the national and local level; small government; and tax reduction. UKIP were pushing ahead with a clear attempt to rally a coalition of socially conservative and financially insecure working-class voters, offering them tough opposition to the EU and immigration, but threatening also a range of measures designed to appeal to their economic needs and right-wing ideological preferences: a flat-tax to help the lowest paid workers, investment in the manufacturing sector, new jobs for manual workers, more police on the streets, stronger prison sentences for criminals, grammar schools, an end to political correctness, Swiss-style referenda, a more proportional election system and the restoration of British values. UKIP were no longer the single-issue, anti-EU pressure group: they had become a fully-fledged radical right party. (pp. 84-5).

Although these policies were designed to appeal to a working class electorate, UKIP is a party of the Libertarian Right. This emerged in the years from 2005-10 under the leadership of their chairman, David Campbell-Bannerman. The book states that he was

tasked with leading a policy review, designed to rebrand UKIP as campaigning for independence from the established political class, whether in Brussels or Westminster. Activists talked of presenting the disgruntled electorate with a ‘radical libertarian alternative’ to the ‘social democratic consensus’. (p. 71).

UKIP are populist Neoliberals, like the rest of the contemporary political parties. They are not moderates, and as the rejection of the ‘social democratic consensus’ indicates, are anti-socialist. It was also in this period that UKIP’s electoral base shifted. UKIP began receiving increased support in areas with a higher proportion of working class voters than average, with poor education and health. They lost support in in areas with larger than average proportion of middle class professionals and university graduates.

Blue-Collar Support for Radical Right and Growing Middle Class Influence in Left-Wing Parties in Europe

In fact the changes in the composition of UKIP’s supporters and constituency mirrors that of the other radical right parties across Europe, from Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France to Jorg Haider’s Freedom Party in Austria, the Northern League in Italy, and the People’s Party in Denmark. These expanded into the working class voters, who were left behind as the manufacturing sector of the European economy shrank, and the Social Democratic parties that were originally founded to defend them shifted instead to appealing to the middle class. These were far more liberal and cosmopolitan in outlook than their fellows in the lower classes. The book describes this situation thus

As the financially more secure and socially more liberal middle classes in Europe continued to grow, so their influence on electoral competition and centre-left politics became ever stronger. These new groups brought a distinct set of values and priorities to the left-wing parties they joined. Their ‘post-material’ agenda prioritised issues like the environment, civil liberties, global social justice and human rights, prompting centre-left parties to overhaul their strategy to win them over. Socialist economic ideas of a planned economy and strong state intervention were downplayed, and replaced by an acceptance of a strong role for free markets and a globally integrated economy. Redistribution and workers’ rights were also given less emphasis, with a greater focus on improving public services, a cause which united both ‘new’ and ‘old’ left, and on efforts to boost opportunities rather than equalise access to resources. Across Europe, the centre-left also shifted more firmly in favour of European integration. Whereas previously some social democrats had been openly hostile towards the Europe project, viewing it as a capitalist club that opposed socialism, from the 1980s they became more supportive, viewing the EU instead as a valuable mechanism through which they could tame capitalism and entrench social democratic principles at the supranational level.

But as Przeworski predicted, these changes came with a cost: the new middle-class agenda marginalised the left’s traditional voters. Their old working-class electorates became dissatisfied with a political system where their traditional voice appeared to have been lost and showed a growing willingness to back more radical parties that articulate their sense of abandonment from the mainstream and responded to their concerns about issues that aroused little interest among new left elites: immigration; national identity; the perceived threat from the EU; and rapid social change more generally.

Alienation of Working Class British Voters from Labour Party

In Britain many White working class voters became increasingly alienated from Labour because of its attempts to retain the loyalty of the ethnic minorities. These had become a significant part of the electorate by the turn of the millennium, and their support for Labour was no longer guaranteed. Many Muslims, for example, had expressed their opposition to the invasion of Iraq by joining the Lib Dems or Respect. Labour attempted to win their support through a liberalisation of the immigration system, tougher legislation against racial discrimination and the promotion of more Black and Asian candidates for parliament. The result of this was that many of the disadvantaged White voters felt that Labour cared more about immigrants than them. Furthermore, the party’s promotion of laissez-faire economic liberalisation also alienated many of the same voters, who now believed that the party was only concerned for the rich. Previously the voters alienated by Labour’s anti-racism would have voted Conservative, but they were also alienated from Cameron’s party by his adoption of the same attitudes to race and multiculturalism as Blair. The result has been that these voters turned to UKIP.

UKIP and the Contrasting Fortunes of the SDP

The book notes that UKIP’s apparent breakthrough into mainstream electoral politics is very recent. Even in the middle of the last decade the party was gaining only 1-2 per cent of the vote on average. For most of the party’s history, very few of their candidates ever even gained enough votes to retain their deposit. They also compare the party’s rise with that of the SDP. When this split from the Labour party, it had a fair size of the vote and was expected to break the mould of the two-party system. Instead it eventually collapsed and was merged with the Liberals. The authors see its failure, compared with the apparent success of UKIP, as due to the origins of the SDP in a split at the top of politics, rather than arising from the electorate itself.

UKIP and Future Labour Electoral Strategy

The book also has a section considering what UKIP’s success means for the other parties, including Labour. They say about this

The dilemma Labour face is between short-term and long-term strategy. In the short term, the strong temptation for Labour will be to sit back and let UKIP divide the Conservative vote at the next general election, thereby lowering the bar for their own victory and a return to power. Some Labour commentators have taken pleasure in the irony of an electoral split undoing the right in the same way as the left has been undone many times in the past. Yet such as ‘laisser faire’ approach to UKIP comes with serious longer-term risks. As we saw in chapters 3 and 4, the UKIP vote comes primarily from ‘left behind’ social groups who were once solidly Labour. UKIP have driven a wedge between the struggling, blue-collar ‘Old Left’, who once supported Labour on economic grounds, and the educated, white-collar ‘new Left’ who often back them on the basis of social values. If they allow UKIP to become established as part of the mainstream political conversation, either with MPs at Westminster or a strong presence in labour heartlands, the centre-left risks making that divide permanent. It will be much harder for Ed Miliband and his party to win back working-class voters with Ukippers running continuous and high profile campaigns on Europe, immigration and traditional British values. Labour also need to remember that UKIP’s rise has been driven as much by populist hostility to the political establishment as by ideology or policy. This does not hurt them much at present, as they are in opposition and therefore not the main focus of anti-system feeling. If they were to win the next elect, they would find UKIP’s populist barbs directed at them. A failure to combat UKIP before 2015 will result in a stronger populist opponent to future Labour governments.

UKIP: Neoliberal Party Exploiting Working Class Support

The book describes UKIP as a paradox. This is absolutely correct. They are a working class party, whose leadership has adopted all the Neoliberal policies of the Conservative Right. Despite their demands for more democracy, they are very strongly anti-working class. if you want examples, go over and look at the Angry Yorkshireman’s discussion of their domestic policies over at Another Angry Voice. And their deputy leader, Paul Nuttall, has stated that he wishes to privatise the NHS. The right-wing, Eurosceptic, anti-NHS Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan has also suggested that the Tories should form an alliance with UKIP. If UKIP did gain power, either by itself or in coalition with the Tories, it would be the working class that would suffer immensely. UKIP have raised and brought to prominence a number of pressing and vital issues – like the continuing role of race and ethnicity in politics, the need to protect an increasingly alienated working class, but they themselves are no solution to these problems.