Posts Tagged ‘Lib-Dems’

The Lib Dems – So Progressive and Remainer, They’d Rather Have No-Deal Brexit than Corbyn

August 19, 2019

So much for the Lib Dems claims to be a progressive party standing for remaining in the EU. Last week Corbyn wrote to the various MPs in the House, declaring his intention of calling for a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s government in order to stop the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal on October 31st. This would mean that the Labour leader, as the leader of the opposition, would form a caretaker government for a few months before a general election was called.

A number of politicos have indicated their support for his plan, like the Welsh Tory Guto Bebb, and the leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon. There have been caveats – Sturgeon has said that she will only support Corbyn if he gets a majority in the House. A number of Lib Dems have also expressed cautious interest. But so far the official line from their oh-so-progressive, Remain leader, Jo Swinson and her buddies is flat refusal. They aren’t going to support Corbyn, because he won’t be able to command a majority, she says. Of course, the real reason is that Swinson and the Lib Dems aren’t progressive at all, no matter what they were saying at the council elections. Swinson voted for all of the policies and reforms demanded by the Tories when the Lib Dems were in Coalition with them. All of the policies cutting welfare benefits for the poor, the sick, disabled and unemployed, the tax cuts for the rich, and the privatisation of the NHS. Furthermore, she’s also run around demanding a statue be put up to Maggie Thatcher. Yes, Thatcher, the woman who ushered in this whole era of cuts, privatisation and more cuts. The woman, who took her monetarist economics from Milton Friedman, who influenced Chilean Fascist dictator General Pinochet. Who was also Maggie’s best friend. How very progressive!

Well, Swinson seems to have turned her back on the Liberal tradition, at least that part of it that came in with T.H. Greene and the other great thinkers of the ‘New Liberalism’ of the 1880s onwards. You know, the philosophers and other ideologues, who realised that state intervention was also compatible with individual freedom. Even necessary for it, as through state intervention the individual was free to do more than he or she could through their own unaided efforts. The kind of Liberalism that prepared the way for Lloyd George’s introduction of state pensions and limited state health provision through the panel system. But Swinson and her colleagues have turned their back on that, and have decided to support the absolute laissez-faire, free enterprise doctrines of the Manchester School of the early 19th century. The doctrines that didn’t work, and which successive governments challenged and rejected in practice while supporting in theory when they passed acts providing for better sanitation, limiting factory hours, and establishing free primary education for children, for example. Greene and the other leaders of the New Liberalism were interested in providing an intellectual, philosophical justification for what government was doing in practice. And they succeeded.

And it’s highly questionable how traditionally Liberal they now are. Liberalism’s fundamental, definitive text is John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. This is one of the great classics of British political philosophy, in which Mill thoroughly examined and lay the basis for modern British democracy and individual freedom. But one of the particularly dangerous policies the Lib Dems supported was the Tories’ introduction of secret courts. Under their legislation, if the government deems that it is warranted because of national security, a person may be tried in secret, with the press and public barred from the courtroom. They may not know the identity of their accuser, and evidence may be withheld from them and their defence. I’ve blogged about this many times before. This isn’t remotely in keeping with anyone’s idea of freedom, and definitely not Mill’s. It the twisted justice of Kafka’s novels, The Trial and The Castle, and the perverted judicial systems of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia.

And then there is Swinson’s whole claim that her party, and her party only, stands for ‘Remain’. That, supposedly, is why, or one of the reasons why, she won’t work with Corbyn. She has gone on to declare her support for Kenneth Clarke as the leader of an interim government, despite the fact that he’s a Brexiteer. He just doesn’t want a no-deal Brexit. And Corbyn has always said that he is willing to go back to the country if he is unable to secure a proper, beneficial Brexit, and hold a second referendum. Which means that if the country votes against Brexit, he won’t do it. But this isn’t enough for Swinson. She wishes to play kingmaker with her tiny band. They got 7 per cent of the vote, and only 10 MPs, whereas Labour got 40 per cent of the vote. She claims that she cannot work with Corbyn, and therefore he will have to go as leader of the Labour party. But this can easily be turned around. Corbyn is willing to work with Swinson, and the simple numbers say he should stay as leader, and she should go as the head of her party. After all, it’s her that’s preventing them from going into government with Corbyn, if the Labour leader should offer that opportunity to them.

Actually, there’s a suggestion that Swinson, like her predecessor Clegg, has already thrown in her lot with the Tories. According to Zelo Street, Natalie Rowe issued a tweet to Swinson demanding that she confirm that she had not been holding talks with BoJob from the 9th to the 12th of this month, August 2019.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/jo-swinson-speaks-with-forked-tongue.html

I don’t think Swinson’s issued any response, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she had. Clegg, remember, claimed that he was willing to join Labour in a coalition, but wouldn’t do so if Gordon Brown was leader. In fact he was lying. He had already made a pact with Cameron. And it’s a very good question whether Swinson hasn’t done the same. Even if she hasn’t, by her refusal to support Corbyn and his vote of no confidence, she’s shown that she’s no stout defender of this country against Brexit, and least of all a no deal Brexit, after all. So much for all the Lib Dem MPs in the European parliament, who all turned up grinning in matching T-shirts with the slogan ‘Bollocks to Brexit’.

Swinson isn’t progressive. She’s a Tory in the Lib Dems. She isn’t a defender of liberty after J.S. Mill. She’s its enemy. And she stands for Remain only when it suits her.

Lib Dem voters were fooled by their party once. Will they be fooled by them again? Remember the saying: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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IDS Plans to Raise Pension Age So Most People Will Be Dead Before Claiming It

August 19, 2019

Yesterday, Mike put up a piece reporting and commenting on the latest plan by Iain Duncan Squit, sorry, Smith. The Gentleman Ranker and his Centre for Social Justice, truly an oxymoron in any connection with the Tory party and especially him, has decided that the pension age should be raised. Because life expectancy is increasing, so say. Well, as Mike has pointed out in his piece, it was, but is no longer. It went into sharp reverse with the Coalition, and for the first time in fifty odd years, the average life expectancy started falling. This has not prevented the man responsible for the tens of thousands of preventable deaths due to benefit sanctions, the work capability tests and his brainchild, Universal Credit, from claiming that the rise in pension age will boost the UK economy. I don’t believe it will, not for a single moment. The increase in the pensionable age will simply mean that that a sizable chunk of British senior citizens will be caught like the WASPI women. There really will be massive poverty. I’ve got a feeling IDS is justifying this by saying that it will get elderly people back into the economy and into work. Well, it will mean that the older people, who should rightly look forward to retirement, will be forced to go on working, if they’re able and the firm doesn’t want to get rid of them in favour of younger, and potentially cheaper workers. But it also means that the many older citizens, who have health problems that prevent them from finding suitable work, will be forced into poverty. You can expect them to be faced with the humiliation and futility of going through all the rigged work capability tests, with the assumption that, no matter how serious their health problems, they should be able to find some work to do.

And Mike’s article also quotes David Hencke about the real issue looming here: many people in the deprived parts of the UK, like Blackpool and Glasgow will be dead before they attain pensionable age. Hencke said in an article last year that the average male life expectancy in Glasgow, Blackpool, Dundee, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire was 75.4 years. So if blokes do reach pensionable age in those areas, then on average they’ll have all of five months or so to enjoy their pension before they die. Which means, to the Tories and Iain Duncan Smith, £££££savings.

Whatever Squit, sorry, Smith says, I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that many older people will die before they reach the age when they can actually claim the pensions they’ve paid in for. For decades parts of the financial sector have been debating reforming the pensions system in line with the increase in life expectancy. The idea here is that the state pension system is, or will be, in crisis because they are too many elderly people living longer and drawing their pensions for longer. This is as the birthrate falls, so there are fewer younger people to support them. The Financial Times was talking about this in an article in the 1990s. And ominously, this article cited the fact that when Bismark introduced his ‘Socialist Law’ granting Germans the right to state pensions and payment for medical treatment, he set the pensionable age at 70. The article stated that this meant that the majority of German workers would be dead long before they could claim it. The Financial Times at that period was a Lib Dem, rather than a Tory newspaper, but that didn’t stop at least one of its other columnists supporting the very Tory policy of workfare. The reasoning for raising the state retirement age is that it has to be done to stop the younger generation being taxed to the hilt to pay for benefits for the elderly. But it actually looks more like the real reason the unspeakable Smith has done it is for the same reason the Tories always want to cut welfare benefits. They had the poor, all the poor, as scroungers, and simply want to give any savings they make from the benefit cuts to the rich as tax cuts. Which will include the millionaire Smith himself.

For further information, see Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/18/planned-pension-age-rise-means-most-will-die-before-ever-seeing-it/

Smith is already a mass-murderer thanks to the carnage he’s inflicted on the unemployed and disabled. Support Corbyn and get him and his murderous government out before they cause more chaos with a no-deal Brexit.

Private For-Profit University Collapses in London

August 5, 2019

Last Thursday’s I for 1st August 2019 carried a report by Ewan Somerville on the  collapse of one of the private universities set up in recent decades, GSM, on page 11. The article, titled ‘Private London university GSM collapses’, ran

One of Britain’s largest private universities has collapsed into administration, leaving thousands of students fearing they will not be able to complete their degrees.

GSM London, a for-profit private degree provider with 3,500 students, will close in September after failing to “recruit and retain sufficient numbers of students” to stay afloat. It says 247 jobs are threatened.

The UCU lecturers’ union blamed the “marketisation of education” and warned against an “increase in poorly regulated private providers”.

Jeffrey Fernhout, 23, who has just completed an economics degree at GSM, told the I he received “no warning” about the collapse. “This has left a lot of students angry, frustrated and uncertain about their future,” he said. “But the organisation was very badly managed so this isn’t a shock.”

The Office for Students, the higher education watchdog, said its “priority is to ensure that students are able to complete their studies”. GSM promised to “support as far as possible “those needing to be relocated.

The Department for Education reiterated its stance of not “bail(ing) out failing providers”.

So much for their superiority of market forces and private enterprise. Of course, this isn’t the only university in trouble. Very many are experience financial problems, partly due to cuts in government funding. When I was studying for my Archaeology Ph.D. at Bristol, I was told that the archaeology department was faced with laying off some of its teaching staff because of funding cuts made by the Blair government. Blair, Mandelson and co. funding policy was inadequate to support courses that required expensive technical equipment. I also heard from academic friends this weekend that one university has also been forced to close their conservation course for archives and libraries, despite it being considered the leading course of this type in the country. Again, the reason was the high cost of funding against the small number of students taking the course. It’s a financially simplistic attitude that ignores the fact that archives and libraries need skilled conservators, and that the money spent on such a course is repaid in the continuing upkeep of rare and valuable materials held in institutions up and down the country.

I also think that many other universities, which are similarly experiencing financial problems, also have problems recruiting the necessary number of students. Years ago, way back at the beginning of the century, another academic friend of mine predicted this would happen. He had been looking at the demographic rates, and concluded that the bulge in the number of people in their late teens and early twenties, who would enter Higher Education, had passed. Colleges and polytechnics, which were perfectly good as they were, were encouraged, if not required to expand into universities. I think that as a result, many of them have seriously overstretched themselves. Universities have complained that the initial student fees they were allowed to charge, which were capped at £3,000, were inadequate. Hence the increase to £9,000. And this has led in turn to massive student debt.

Many students now feel that they cannot afford their education, and that includes nurses. A little while ago BBC Bristol produced a documentary reporting that students number on nursing courses had fallen. Interviewing some of those still on the course, they explained that the reason was that they simply could not afford to support themselves and pay the tuition fees. Some of those still on the course explained that they had to work to support themselves. These young people often worked long hours, as well as the time they spent on their academic and practical studies. Those aspiring nurses, who are continuing their studies in this environment, are clearly to be admire for their dedication. But it’s a deplorable way to treat the future skilled medical staff which Britain needs, especially with its aging population.

And the situation has not been helped by the concern of university management and administrators for their own enrichment at the expense of teaching staff. I understand that many of the lecturers at universities are actually poorly paid. Quite a number actually work only part-time, because full-time positions are rare and extremely difficult to get. Meanwhile, we’ve seen a procession of university chancellors awarding themselves salaries in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. This mirrors the way business management has consistently voted massive pay rises for themselves, while cutting investment and freezing pay or even finding ways to deliberately underpay their employees. Like zero hours contracts.

But despite the precariousness of university finances, thanks to Thatcherite educational policies, the government is determined not to give financial support to those failing. Which means that if they go under, tens of thousands of students will have racked up tens of thousands in debt for zilch.

The introduction of market forces and the privatisation of Higher and Further Education is a failure. It’s leaving universities in financial trouble, forcing some lecturers and other non-management staff to accept poor wages and job insecurity, and leaving students with a mountain of debt which many will find impossible to pay off.

It’s another example of the utter failure of Thatcherism, despite its continuing loud promotion by a shrilly intolerant media and political establishment. It’s time to bring it to an end, and get rid of it. All of it, including the parties supporting it – the Brexiteers, the Tories and the Lib Dems. Get them out, and a proper Labour government in.

 

 

 

Boris Booed in Wales and Scotland – But Is Anyone Surpised

July 31, 2019

Boris and his fan club prepare to meet the rest of the UK

On Monday, Boris Johnson, the unelected Prime Minister of the UK, decided to grace Scotland with his presence. And, not surprisingly, he was roundly booed by the guid people north of the border. And then yesterday he turned up in Wales, and got the same treatment.

It was pretty well inevitable that he was going to get a rough ride in Scotland. A few days ago the I published a map showing the Blond Brute’s popularity in different parts of the UK. From what I can remember, it was highest down in south or south east England, where he had a whopping 29 per cent. In the English midlands or north, this fell to 22 per cent. But in Scotland only 16 per cent liked him. That high, huh? I wonder about the accuracy of these polling figures, considering how some of the polling companies are linked to the Tories, and some have been caught using leading questions. Nearly all of them, with the exception of Survation, have severely underestimated Labour’s true popularity. Which makes you wonder if these figures for Johnson have been inflated to make him appear more popular than he really is. And if they have, then how minuscule is his popularity really up in Scotland?

Some of this unpopularity goes right back to Maggie. Realising that the Tories were never going to be popular in Scotland, Thatcher decided she had nothing to lose by alienating them, and so started to use them as her laboratory. She used the country to test legislation before inflicting it on the rest of the UK. As a result, Tory fortunes fell further, with Malcolm Rifkind, one of her cabinet ministers, telling her that she had killed the Conservative party there.

And some of it is Boris’ own fault. This is the man, who thought it would be jolly japes to publish a poem in the Speccie about rounding the Scots up in ghettos and exterminating them. Among his other offences against the working people of the UK as a whole. Much of the movement for independence in Scotland has been provoked, one way or another, by the Tories and their determination to force through policies that will only benefit the London-based financial sector. Now that he’s been appointed PM by the Tory party, he has decided on going on a goodwill visit to the rest of the UK in order to show his commitment to the union. This is despite the unpopularity of the Brexit he’s so determined to force through in the rest of the UK, to the extent that it’s a positive danger to it. But presumably he felt he’d be safe up there as Rab C. Nesbitt is no longer on television. How wrong he was!

And the Old Etonian morlock got a similar reception when he rocked up in Wales. He was booed there. Again, not surprising. The farmers at this year’s Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wales were worried about the impact Brexit would have on the Welsh beef and lamb export industry. If Britain leaves without a deal, those meats will face a 40 per cent tariff in Europe. This will make them uncompetitive. Minette Batters, of the National Farmers’ Union, has said that as a result of this, there would be a massive surplus of British beef and lamb, and called for the government to look at forcing hospitals, schools and other public bodies to buy them.

According to the Times, Gove, who looks to me like a slightly melted Thunderbird puppet, has done just that, and is just finalising legislation to commit the government to buy up lamb and beef at a predetermined price, as well as some crops. This would cost the government about half a billion a year. Zelo Street in his article on this issue has wondered if Gove and the Tories also intend to buy up and subsidise British sugar beet and the dairy farmers, who have now diversified into specialist cheeses. And what about the British car industry, where investment has practically stopped because of uncertainty over Brexit. According to the Groan, the car industry here was investing between £2.5 and £2.7 billion. Zelo Street commented

Half a billion here, a few more billion there, soon it starts to add up – soon it will overhaul the UK’s current annual contribution to the EU budget.

and  concluded

There is no better deal than the one we have with the EU. The proposed antics of Mr Gove The Butcher underscore this. So when are the grownups going to stop this idiocy?

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/07/mr-gove-butcher-wastes-half-billion.html

This is a good question, as whatever he is, Boris Johnson ain’t a grown-up. Rather, he’s like his American counterpart, Donald Trump, a massively egomaniac manbaby.

On his state visit to Wales, Boris called in on that nation’s First Minister, Mark Drakeford, a Labour politician. And he wasn’t impressed. He tried to impress on BoJob how utterly disastrous a no-deal Brexit would be for Welsh agriculture and manufacturing. Boris gave the usual assurance about the government offering help and support, but when asked about the nature of that support couldn’t give any details. Boris simply told Drakeford again that there would be wonderful opportunities for Welsh agriculture and business. And Drakeford felt that once again there was no detailed thinking behind what otherwise becomes vacuous optimism.

Quite. But this is just par for the course. Brexit has been marketed and sold to the British, and here this means largely the English people, through egregious lies and vacuous optimism. Like the big lie Boris was peddling on the sides of buses telling everyone that the £350 million we’d save from giving to the EU – which was itself another deliberate lie – would be spent on the NHS. No, it won’t. And when it became apparent that it wasn’t, Boris blustered that he hadn’t been lying, just using the NHS as an example of what the money could be spent on instead. And then, when he thought he’d got away with it, he repeated the lie all over again. Everything Boris says is just propaganda and optimistic lies.

And just like Tweezer, he’s another one who’s terrified of public appearances that he can’t absolutely control. The assembled Beeb and ITV reporters were invited to ask questions, but they couldn’t film them. We’re back to Tweezer and her  meetings with members of the public, but only after they’d been very carefully selected first. As Mike pointed out, rigid control of the press and media is one of the classic features of Fascism.

BoJob booed again as the new PM fails in Wales

But going back to Gove’s decision to buy up all the unsold beef and lamb we’re not going to sell to Europe, it’s a good question how long this will go on. Thatcher didn’t believe in the government supporting failing industries, and so let large parts of British manufacturing as well as the iron and steel industries go under. Are the Tories going to do what they normally do, and which Boris appears to be doing now – promise government support but not actually honour those promises when the time comes? And if they do, what cuts are they going to inflict on other areas of public spending, like the welfare state and the NHS, in order to balance the budget?

Boris and his entire party are inveterate liars and the Brexit he’s pushing will be catastrophic, not just for Scotland and Wales but for the UK as a whole. And the Lib Dems are no better. It’s time both of them were gone, and a proper Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn was elected instead.

 

High Court Judge Calls for Donations to Charity for People without Lawyers

July 30, 2019

Yesterday’s I for Monday, 29th July 2019, carried an article by Brian Farmer on page 13 reporting that Lady Hale, the president of the Supreme Court, had made an appeal for donations to a charity for people, who can’t afford lawyers. This should resonate with everyone supporting Mike in his battle against the false libel claim against him by Riley and Oberman, and for the 17 other victims of their vindictive legal mendacity. The article ran

The UK’s most senior judge has appealed for people to give money to a charity whose volunteers support those embroiled in civil court cases who cannot afford a lawyer.

Lady Hale, president of the Supreme Court, asked for donations to the Personal Support Unit yesterday.

She made this week’s Radio 4 Appeal, a BBC programme in which well-known people ask for donations to charities.

“I know how intimidating the civil and family courts can be for people without legal knowledge of help,” Lady Hale, patron of the Personal Support Unit, told listeners. “Everyone deserves access to justice whether or not they can afford a lawyer.”

She told the story of a woman helped by the unit after becoming involved in a family court fight with a former partner. A year ago, the then most senior family court judge in England and Wales talked about problems caused by increasing numbers of people who found themselves without lawyers.

It seems from this that she was mostly concerned about disputes in the family courts, but it applies right across the board. This has been partly caused by the Tories slashing legal aid, which has made justice unaffordable for all too many poor and working and lower middle class Brits. And Mike’s case appears to be another example of a SLAPP lawsuit, in which the rich and powerful attempt to silence political opponents by punitive legal action, which they hope their victims won’t be able to afford to challenge or defend themselves against. Mike, for example, has been forced to go to crowdfunding to ask for donations for his own defence against Riley and Oberman. He’s also been lucky to have the support of so many people reading his site, like Damo from Cornwall. People who’ve never met him, but enjoy and appreciate his site and the hard work he has put in trying to defend the disabled and their carers against a vicious, persecutory Tory and Lib Dem regime. I know that their contributions to Mike’s fund are greatly appreciated. But he’s not the only one to hit with legal suits he can’t afford to challenge without the support of charity.

This has to end. Legal aid should be restored to proper levels. And the libel laws should be reformed so that the rich and vindictive cannot use them to silence reasonable, truthful criticism. And legislation is definitely needed to prohibit SLAPP lawsuits by the corporate rich and political right. Only then can the poor really expect justice.

Labour to Help Working Poor in First Term

July 18, 2019

On a more optimist note, yesterday’s I also carried a report on page 8 by Harriet Line, ‘Labour ‘would end in-work poverty by end of first term’. This ran

Labour will eliminate the “modern-day scourge” of in-work poverty by the end of the party’s first full term back  in office, John McDonnell is to promise. 

The shadow Chancellor will pledge to make structural changes to the economy, ensure public services are free at the point of use and provide a strong social safety net to tackle the issue if his party enters government.

Mr McDonnell is to set out his party’s plans in a speech at the launch of the Resolution Foundation’s Living Standards Audit this morning.

He will say:”Behind the concept of social mobility is the belief that poverty is OK as long as some people are given the opportunity to climb out of it, leaving the others behind.

“I reject that completely, and want to see a society with higher living standards for everyone as well as one in which nobody lacks the means to survive or has to choose between life’s essentials.”

“Without any one of these three elements, we will not be able to achieve the sustained eradication of poverty, the dramatic narrowing of inequality, and the transformation of people’s lives that will be the central purpose of the next Labour government.

“The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said last year that ‘in-work poverty is the problem of our times’.

“I am committing today to ending this modern-day scourge, to eliminating in-work poverty by the end of Labour’s first full parliamentary term.”

The JRF executive director, Claire Ainsley, commended Labour’s “significant ambition” as being “the right thing to do”.

She added: “Delivering this commitment should be the No 1 focus for political leaders after Brexit.”

Now expect this to be attacked by the Tories, Lib Dems and Blairites. And I don’t doubt that they’re playing up about anti-Semitism in the Labour party again to try to drown out this message. It’s the precise thing they, and their masters in business, really don’t want people to hear.

All of these groups are Thatcherites to the core, and Thatcherism accepted the Neoliberal doctrine, derived from 19th century laissez-faire economics, that wages should be as low as possible. She also believed in making life harder for the unemployed in order to force them to take care of themselves, and this has been extended to other groups, like the working poor. Their poverty and poor conditions are supposed to be justified by lowering labour expenses in business, thus allowing them to become more profitable and enriching managers, proprietors and shareholders. And the constant refrain of Tories in response to complaints about low wages is that if you don’t like it, you can get another, better job elsewhere. Because the free market will supposedly also act to make employers try to remain competitive by offering the best terms and conditions to their workers. Even when the same market forces are expected to act against that very thing.

It’s Labour’s determination under Corbyn to end in-work poverty, to empower workers, giving them proper wages and restoring the welfare state after its decimation by forty years of Thatcherism, that the Tories, Lib Dems and Blairites find so threatening. And Margaret Hodge let this hidden agenda behind her faction’s attack on Corbyn and his supporters out the bag a few weeks ago.

She condemned Corbyn and his supporters for offering the working class ‘bribes’, like the above, which they could never fulfill.

Which shows that Hodge and her fellows are simply died in the wool Thatcherite entryists, who have no place in a genuinely socialist, Labour party.

As for the ability of Labour to bring this about, it reminds me of a story about a young American farm boy and the Progressive Party back in the 1920 and ’30s. The Progressive Party aimed at improving conditions in rural America, where there was and is much massive poverty. Among their policies, the Party promised to build roads to every farm. The story goes that a group out in the American countryside was discussing this. They turned to a local farm boy, whom they knew was a supporter of the Progressives, and asked him if he really believed the Progressives could actually do it. The lad replied, ‘If my dog can tree it, I’ll have it’.

And Labour can end in-work poverty, despite the threats and screams from the right. 

Britain to Gets Its Own Reichsarbeitdienst for the Environment?

July 18, 2019

Yesterday’s I for Wednesday, 18th July 2019 carried an article by Stephanie Soh, ‘How young and old could help a National Nature Service’ on page 26 reported that the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission and the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts has suggested that a special Nature Service should be set up. This would be a form of National Service, in which school leavers and young people would be sent out to work on farms and the environment. The article runs

Imagine signing up for national service, and you probably picture yourself doing rifle practice, cleaning graffiti off a wall or helping elderly people in you community. But what about picking up a shovel to farm fruit and vegetables?

A “National Nature Service” – a voluntary scheme that would involve people aged 18 to 25 taking up agricultural work in rural communities – has been suggested by the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, and set up by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragements of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce).

Arguing that “farming is a force for change”, it says that the sector has the potential to boost Britain’s economy and help to mitigate climate change through sustainable practices. But to do this, it needs manpower. In exchange for their work, young people would be able to do their bit for the environment, gain new experiences and reconnect with nature.

The commission suggests in its report Our Future in the Land that “aspects of the service could form part of an accredited learning scheme or apprenticeship”. It could be target at young poeple from disadvantaged communities, as well as retirees who have “time and resources to do the work”.

Grants could fund projects that would provide free bed and board to participants. With many young people struggling to find paid work, with many expected to serve internships to get a foothold in their careers, some might question why they would consider working for free on farms.

But with climate change a problem for communities everywhere, and teenagers increasingly engaged in the issue, perhaps it’s not such as far-flung ideas that they might want to volunteer for a scheme that helps them find solutions for it.

The trouble is, this is a Nazi idea. Hitler set up a Reichsarbeitsdienst, ‘imperial work service’, which was a system of compulsory voluntary work. Young people were sent off to work in agriculture for a set period. It was based on earlier voluntary work schemes set up by the Weimar government to deal with unemployment. The Nazis then took it over and massively expanded it. Again, it was used by the Nazis to claim that they had solved unemployment.

And this looks almost exactly the same, except that it’s being suggested in a country that is still just about democratic.

I’ve blogged before about the similar to the various ‘welfare to work’ schemes set up by the Tories and the Lib Dems to the Nazi Reichsarbeitsdienst, how they also claimed to be helping people tackle unemployment, while really they’re about massaging the unemployment figures and providing cheap labour to Tory and Lib Dem donors in industry and the charity section. Now the authorities have narrowed any difference between these schemes and their Nazi predecessor even further with this.

There are still some ideological differences. Part of the reasons the Nazis set up the Reichsarbeitsdienst is because they saw themselves as a peasant party, defending the rights and way of life of small farmers. Thus they enacted a series of policies which were intended to regenerate agriculture, and provide help and security for the peasants. At the same time young people were expected to work out their time on farms, they were also expected to absorb the farmers’ healthy peasant, volkisch values. As against the malign influence of the towns and urban culture, which were hotbeds of socialism and cosmopolitanism created and fostered by the Jews.

There doesn’t seem to be any anti-Semitic, ultra-nationalist overtones to the scheme just yet, but this may well change if the Tories or, Heaven forbid!, the Brexit party ever get into government.

And there’s another different with the Nazi scheme. The Nazis intended the service to be part of their plan to create a classless German society, a true volksgemainschaft, or people’s community. As such Hitler gave a speech to the Reichsarbeitsdienst in which he said that there wouldn’t be a member of the political or industrial elite that hadn’t risen from their ranks.

But with a government dominated by old Etonians and other public schoolchildren, I can’t see that happening any time soon. None of the other ‘voluntary’ schemes have shown themselves better at getting the underprivileged and unemployed back into work, and I very much doubt this one will either.

Douglas Murphy on the Corporate Elite, Environmental Collapse

July 14, 2019

In my last post, I reviewed Douglas Murphy’s Last Futures: Nature, Technology and the End of Architecture (London: Verso 2016). This is about the rise and fall of Modernist architecture. This style, whose antecedents can be traced back to the Great Exhibition and the Crystal Palace, and which was strongly influenced by architects and thinkers as widely different as Le Corbusier and Buckminster Fuller, was an attempt to create cheap, available buildings to cater for the needs of the future, as it was predicted in the 1950s and ’60s. This was an optimistic period that looked forward to economic growth, increasing standards of living, beneficial technological innovation, and, crucially, the ability of the state to plan effectively for people’s needs. This was a future that looked forward to a future, which automation would mean that people only worked for three days each week. The rest of the time, people would voluntarily go back into education to develop themselves. As Buckminster Fuller enthusiastically proclaimed that ‘within a century the word “worker” will have no current meaning’.

As automation eliminates physical drudgery, we will spend more time in the future in intellectual activity. The great industry of tomorrow will be the university, and everyone will be going to school’. (p. 27).

Fuller was one of the pioneers of the nascent environmentalist movement, and coined the term ‘spaceship Earth’ to describe the loneliness and fragility of our planet and its ecosystem.

Other influences on Modernist architecture were Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, about the devastating effect pollution, and particularly the insecticide DDT was having on wildlife. and the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth. Silent Spring’s title referred to the massive decline in America’s bird population caused by crop spraying with the insecticide. Limits to Growth was based on an attempt to use computers to model the performance of the world economy and the effect this would have on the environment. It assumed that resources were only finite and a growing global population. The intention was to test various changes in policy and see what effects this would have in the near to mid-future. The results were extremely ominous. The first run found that

If the present growth trends in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on the planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probably result will be a rather suddent and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity. (p. 176).

This prediction of collapse was constant in subsequent runs, despite the changes in factors. Sometimes the collapse was sharper. One variation meant that it would be put off for fifty years. Another left some resources still in existence after the collapse for some kind of civilisation to continue. But all the models predicted disaster.

Moreover, technological innovation was unable to prevent the collapse. The authors of the experiment stated that technological optimism was the most common and most dangerous reaction to their findings, because it tended to solve some of the symptoms of the problems while leaving the actually causes untouched. The only real solution was to halt population growth, reduce the consumption of resources, switch capital investment from industry to education, combat pollution, improve agriculture and extend the productive life of capital.

While this is extremely restrictive, nevertheless the authors of the report believed that there was still room for optimism, because it allowed what many would consider the most desirable and satisfying human pursuits – education, art, music, religion, basic scientific research, athletics and social interaction, to continue.The book was highly influential, and discussed by powerful figures like Kurt Waldheim, the UN Secretary General in 1973, and President Giscard d’Estaing of France.  It was also widely criticised. Its critics complained that the model was too simplistic, and the authors themselves acknowledged that the model was rudimentary. It was also asserted that capitalism would find solutions to these problems, and industry would switch to a different, more productive direction. And also humanity would in time find solutions, both social and technological, to the problems.

However, Murphy goes on to comment that despite criticisms and attempts to move industrial society away from its current disastrous direction, the book’s predictions appear to hold true. He writes

Despite the massive emotional and political investment in moving the world away from its destructive course and onto more sustainable paths, none of the great many harbingers of doom from the period managed to shift capitalism off its growth-led and industrially intensive direction. There may be no need to defend the primitive systems of Limits to Growth and its ‘world model’ of 1972, but in recent years it has become a common sight to see the graph of the ‘standard model’ catastrophe with actual data from the subsequent forty years superimposed upon it. When this is done the graphs match almost perfectly, right up to around the present day, which is the point where the collapse is due to begin. (p. 180, my emphasis).

One of the responses to the predictions of environmental collapse was the proposal that special biospheres – enclosed buildings enclosing parts of the natural environment – should be built to protect some areas from destruction. One example of such a project is the Biosphere 2 experiment of the 1990s, in which a group of eight volunteers attempted to live inside such an enclosed artificial ecosystem for three years.

In his conclusion, Murphy points out the difference between the ’60s prediction of the benefits of automation and those of today, writing

Back then, automation was seen almost universally as a rising tide that would set people free from drudgery, but now, the mass automation of intellectual work promised by the algorithms of the technology industry seems much more likely to raise the drawbridge between the wealthy and the masses even further. Instead of people working a few days a week and fulfilling themselves with creative leisure at other times, it appears more likely that people will become more tightly squeezed into the last remaining jobs whose empathy and emotional labour the robots cannot synthesise.

And instead of enclosed cities, in which all citizens can live in harmony with nature, he predicts these will instead become the sole preserve of the rich.

Finally, instead of living in giant structures balancing the energy needs of cities with the natural world around them, it seems more likely that the lack of action on carbon dioxide emissions, combined with rising inequality across human society, will lead instead to the creation of climate enclaves, fortified cities for the super rich, self-sufficient in energy and food yet totally barricaded off from those outside who will be left to fend for themselves – the ultimate in Slotendijk’s bubbles. (p. 221).

When I read the above passage remarking on the apparent accuracy of the predictions in Limits to Growth, I thought of all the figures in big business and right-wing politics telling us that there’s no need to worry and we can carry on polluting and destroying the planet – the Koch brothers, the Republicans in America and Conservatives and Lib Dems over here, the oil and fracking companies, the newspapers pushing climate denial, like the Daily Heil and the Spectator, Nigel Farage and the Brexit party, Mick Hume and the wretched Spiked magazine and all the rest. And my reaction was the same as Charlton Heston’s in the 1968 Planet of the Apes, when he finally finds out that he is not on an alien world, but on an Earth after humanity has virtually destroyed itself in a nuclear war.

I really hope that the predictions are wrong, and that this isn’t the high point of our civilisation and that there won’t be any collapse. I’m sure that there are plenty of good objections to Limits to Growth.

But we still need to combat the environmental crisis, and kick out the corrupt politicians, who are taking the money from polluting industries and allowing the destruction of the Earth’s precious environment and the squandering of its resources. We need an end to Republican, Conservative governments and the political parties that aid, like the two-faced Lib Dems, and the election of genuinely Green, socialist governments under leaders like Jeremy Corbyn.

 

Tom Watson’s Racism and the Anti-Semitism Smears

July 7, 2019

Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, is one of Jeremy Corbyn’s most vocal critics. He’s one of the most important Blairites in the Labour party spreading the anti-Semitism smears and witch hunt. But, as Tony Greenstein has pointed out time and again, Watson himself has actually backed real racists in the Labour party, and promoted their fearmongering and scapegoating of ethnic minorities.

Greenstein mentions some of these incidents in his post today, in which he urges Corbyn’s supporters to join a protest in support of Chris Williamson. Williamson is an important Corbyn ally, and Greenstein and very many others fear that if he is removed, then Corbyn’s position becomes untenable. What Williamson said about Labour being too apologetic over the anti-Semitism smears wasn’t itself anti-Semitic. The scale of anti-Semitism in the Labour party is low, very much lower than in mainstream society, and much lower, I would imagine, than in the Tories. It has been exaggerated and blown out of all proportion by a right-wing political and media establishment desperate to find any means of discrediting a genuine socialist and his supporters, and an unrepresentative Jewish establishment desperately trying to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel’s slow genocide of the Palestinians.

Greenstein mentions several instances of the Blairites’ racism, which involved Watson. Neither Watson  nor the other ‘moderates’ opposed the illegal and very racist Windrush deportations. He also states that Watson bullied Yvonne Davies to prevent her standing for Sandwell Council, because she opposed a BNP-style march.

Watson also supported Phil Woolas, who ran a very racist campaign against his Lib Dem opponent. This portrayed all Muslims as Islamist fanatics and claimed that the Lib Dem candidate supported them. Greenstein produced this image of the offending, and very offensive leaflet.

Greenstein states that Woolas’ agent stated that their strategy was to ‘make the White folks angry’, because if they didn’t, Woolas was ‘gone’. It was because of this leaflet that Woolas was removed as MP by the High Court. Watson complained in an article in Labour Uncut, in the article ‘Tory Lies, Lib Dem Lies, Phil Woolas and the Mystical Shaman of Truth’

‘I’ve lost sleep thinking about poor old Phil Woolas and his leaflets.’ He felt ‘like a piano has been dropped on my head. It is the most brutal truth of all – the realisation that you are on your own in politics.‘

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/07/if-you-cant-defend-chris-williamson-you.html

It’s clear from all this that Watson is very far from being an anti-racist activist, genuinely concerned with protecting Jews from anti-Semitism. It’s just the latest convenient pretext for an entirely politically-motivated attack on Corbyn. Because Corbyn wishes to empower working people, which includes Jews, against the neoliberal elite. And in this, Watson has much in common with this guy, whatever he pretends about anti-racism and anti-Semitism.

The march in support of Chris Williamson against the NEC is on Tuesday, July 9, 9 a.m., at 105 Victoria Street, London SW1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBc Drama about Fascist Radicalisation of Deprived White Youth

July 4, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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