Posts Tagged ‘Liberal Democrats’

English Democrat Posing as ‘Anti-Corbyn’ in Batley and Spen Bye-Election

October 5, 2016

More tasteless inanity from the real Far Right. Hope Not Hate today has published an article reporting that the English Democrats are fielding their own candidate for the forthcoming Batley and Spen bye-election under what many people would consider to be a false name. This is the constituency of the murdered MP, Jo Cox. The other two major parties, the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, have stated that they will not contest this seat out of respect for her. Unfortunately, the British Far and Fascist Right have shown their complete lack of anything like class, taste or decency in rejecting this strategy and putting forward their own candidates. Because they believe that in the absence of any competition from the Lib Dems or Tories, they might stand a chance. The English Democrats’ candidate is one Neil Humphrey, who is standing as ‘Anti-Corbyn’. He’s told the Electoral Commission that this is what other people habitually call him, but as the Hope Not Hate article makes clear, it’s far more likely he’s taken the name simply to present himself as some kind of alternative Labour candidate.

See: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/meet-the-man-behind-batley-spen-con-5027

The organisation also revealed yesterday that the NF, BNP and Liberty GB’s Jack Buckby are also standing. Liberty GB is an anti-Islamic party. It’s basically the political wing of the English Defence League. Buckby himself apparently is sleeping on a friend’s floor somewhere in New York, where he’s also one of the organisers behind a massive party in support of Donald Trump. Hope Not Hate also have the poster for that too, along with the news that Buckby is also worried that New York’s own anti-Fascists will turn up to spoil the fun. So we have bigots of two continents meeting in unity. As Benjamin J. Grimm, your ever-lovin’ Thing would probably say, ‘What a revoltin’ development!’ The Hope Not Hate article also reports on some of the antics at the NF’s latest, minuscule demo in Birmingham, and that one of their number has been sentenced to 13 years for assaulting a pensioner. This crim also had an accomplice, who was also a member of the Far Right.

See: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/these-nazis-have-no-shame-5026

I think I can confidently predict that none of these Far Right parties actually stand a chance of winning a seat in parliament. In fact, I’ll be surprised if they even get back their deposit. But the fact that they’re prepared to use the opportunity presented by Jo Cox’s murder, which has been linked to another Fascist party, and that one of these idiots is doing so under an assumed name, just shows how squalid and amoral they are. It’s just one more reason why decent people won’t vote for them. Quite apart from the many, many others.

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Labour Rebels Want to Create Party within a Party, and Corbyn’s Response

July 31, 2016

Mike’s put up two pieces reporting and commenting on the plan of unnamed Labour rebels to set up a separate party within the Labour party against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

It was reported in the Mirror and Torygraph that senior Labour rebels were so convinced that Corbyn would win the leadership, they want to create virtually a second party, with its own shadow cabinet and leader. They would also issue a legal challenge to get control of the Labour party’s name and assets, and would petition John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, to nominate them as the official opposition.

Mike comments that the idea seems ‘hopelessly naive’. He makes the point that if they did carry out their plans, they would disrupt opposition to the Tories, and convince the majority of Labour members and supporters that they are really ‘Red Tories’ – Conservatives in disguise. Any attempt to gain the party’s name and assets would fail without the support of the majority of members. Mike also notes that they are also making a huge assumption that the majority of their rebel MPs would stay with them, when one of them, Sarah Champion, has already recanted and re-joined the Corbynites. He also notes that none of the leaders of this supposed plot have had the courage to reveal their identities, thus demonstrating once again the cowardice that has led their detractors to call them the ‘Chicken Coup’. And without knowing their identities, for all we know the story may have been made up by the Mirror and Torygraph. He concludes by stating that the only thing this will do is undermine Owen Smith’s own bid for the leadership.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/contempt-for-democracy-labour-rebels-plan-to-start-their-own-party-within-a-party/

Later yesterday Mike also put up a piece from the Groaniad, reporting Corbyn and McDonnell’s response to news of the plot. Corbyn said

“We are getting into some fairly bizarre territory here where unnamed MPs, funded from unnamed sources, are apparently trying to challenge – via the Daily Telegraph, very interesting – the very existence of this party.”

He stated that the Labour party was founded by pioneers, brave people, and that under the registration of parties act, they are the Labour party. There isn’t another, and he was very proud to be the leader of the Labour party. He also stated that it was nonsense that his leadership could cause a split, as membership had doubled since he became leader, and activity had increased.

McDonnell urged Smith to condemn the minority of MPs supporting his campaign, who were trying to subvert the election and damage the Labour party. Smith, when asked for a comment, said he refuses to indulge in gossip.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/bizarre-labour-rebels-can-never-steal-the-partys-name-and-assets-corbyn/

The Labour party has suffered a series of splits over its century-long history. Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation, which was one of the Socialist groups involved in the foundation of the party, later split away in the 1920s to form, with other groups, the Communist Party. Keir Hardie’s ILP also split, to carry on as a radical Socialist party. One of its most distinctive policies was a complete rejection of the wages system. Outside the Labour party it very swiftly declined. The last time I heard anything about it was thirty years ago, when I found a copy of its magazine/ newsletter in Cheltenham Public Library.

The most recent and notorious of the splits was that of the SDP in the 1980s, formed by the right-wing Labour MPs Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins and David Owen. They claimed to be ‘breaking the mould of British politics’, and Owen at the 1987 election told the party faithful to go back home and prepare for government. There was then, almost inevitably, a Tory victory. Screaming Lord Sutch later offered Owen a place in his Monster Raving Loony Party, saying cheekily that if Owen had joined them, he would be preparing for government. The SDP forged an alliance with the Liberals, and the two eventually merged to become the Liberal Democrats. They have also signally failed break the mould of British politics, despite the Guardian telling everyone to go out and vote for them at the 2010 elections. As for Owen, in the 1980s he was so desperate for power that at one point he even offered to support the Tories in a coalition, just as thirty years later Clegg decided to get into bed with Cameron.
And the SDP were also influenced by the neoliberal ideas of the Chicago School. Ann Soper, their Shadow Education Minister, was a fan of Milton Friedman’s ideas for school vouchers, which parents could use either on state education, or private.

If such a split did occur, it would be extremely unpleasant indeed. The wrangling about party assets and name could take years to settle. The vast majority of grassroots members would depart, and stay with Corbyn. And I’ve no doubt that rather than establishing themselves as the ‘official’ Labour party, the coup plotters would find the British public turning their backs on them as treacherous and untrustworthy intriguers. They’d decline into another rump party, while Corbyn’s faction would probably expand. They might also go the same way as the SDP, and try to join the Liberal Democrats after the number of their MPs declined past a certain point, no doubt all the while grumbling about ‘unelectable’ Corbyn being somehow responsible for the misfortunes they had all brought down on themselves.

Basu and Stuckler on the Privatisation of the NHS

July 22, 2016

Body Economic Pic

Earlier this week I put up a piece about The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills, by the medical researchers David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu (New York: Basic Books 2013). The book shows, using examples of recessions from the Great Depression of the 20s and 30s, to contemporary Britain and Greece, and the massive privatisation of the Russian economy after the Fall of Communism, how recessions and the austerity programmes that Conservatives use to try and correct them, also cause health crises. Conversely, welfare states that support people, not only give their peoples good health, but also create prosperity.

The two authors are also very much aware that the British National Health Service is being privatised, and are very critical of this. They write

Today the NHS’s founding principles are being forgotten, as the conservative Tory government seeks to make the NHS more like the American profit-driven, market-based system. When the Tory government came to power, they revisited a pamphlet developed under the previous Tory government of John Major that called the NHS a “bureaucratic monster that cannot be tamed” and in need of “radical reform”. In 2004, Oliver Letwin, the pamphlet’s lead author, said the “NHS will not exist” within five years of a Tory election victory. Indeed, after the Tories came to power they proposed the Health and Social Care Act, which embodied the free-market principles of the radical pamphlet.

It was difficult for us to understand this decision. Overall in 2010, before the Tory government began dismantling the NHS, the UK spent less of its GDP on health (8 percent) than Germany (10.5 percent), France (11.2 percent) or the United States (19 percent). Ultimately, the Tories’ position was not based on evidence but ideology-the idea that markets, competition, and profits would always be better than government intervention.

A highly divisive public debate over the Health and Social Care Act ensued. Over staunch opposition from the Royal College of Nursing and almost all of the medical Royal Colleges (the UK equivalents of the American Medical Association), Parliament approved the Act in 2012. Thus began what many regard as a major move towards privatization of the NHS. Repeatedly, David Cameron promised the British public that the Act was not “privatising the NHS” and that he would “cut the deficit not the NHS.” The Liberal-Democratic leader Nick Clegg said, “There will be no privatisation.”

The Department of Health website even stated that “Health Ministers have said they will never privatise the NHS.” But the data tell a different story: increasingly, the government is transferring large swaths of healthcare provision to private contractors.

Private profiteers are replacing dedicated doctors. In October 2012, the government awarded 400 lucrative contracts for NHS services, worth a quarter billion pounds, in what was called “the biggest act of privatisation ever in the NHS.” Virgin, for example, won lucrative contracts to deliver reproductive care (no pun intended). But the result was not the efficiency of private enterprise, but what had already been seen in the US market model-profits at the expense of patients. One journalist found this to be the case at health clinics in Teesside, northeast England. After Virgin won contracts to take over the services, the clinic repeatedly missed targets for screening people for chlamydia. It was a simple task that the NHS fulfilled easily. The journalist found a memo that revealed “staff were asked to take home testing kits to use on friends and family to help make the numbers up.” In Oxford, patients complained about increasing wait times to see their doctors after Virgin took over a local practice. Virgin responded that the practice had been underperforming when it was taken over, and that “there are still improvements to be made but we’re pleased that progress so far was recognised and applauded by councillors.” And so began what continues to be a highly sophisticate public relations campaign.

The UK’s next step toward US-style market-based medicine is moving forward at the time of this writing. It encourages patients to spend out of their pockets for healthcare rather than use the government-funded NHS. The Tory government is extending pilot projects to offer those with chronic illnesses “personal budgets” so that they themselves can make choices about how to manage their care, with few safeguards against profit-seeking swindlers or predatory insurance companies despite a government evaluation that highlighted many problems with this approach.

Early evidence suggests the Health and Social Care Act may in fact be hazardous to the health of the citizens and residents of the United Kingdom. Just before the Coalition government came into power, the NHS had the highest patient approval ratings in its history, over 70 percent. Within two years, approval fell to 58 percent, the largest decline in three decades. There are already warning signs that the healthcare situation in Britain may come to resemble that in the US before Obama. Patients are being turned away from privately managed clinics, some of which simply close their doors after meeting a daily quota to fulfill their contractual obligations. And in the first year of reform, emergency room visits jumped to the highest in the decade- perhaps because more people are neglecting preventive care, like Diane. As the editor of the Lancet warned, “people will die.”

Whether the British people will fully accept this radical privatisation of their healthcare system remains unclear. But once market incentives take hold of a public system, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to reverse course. In the UK, the recession-fueled combination of austerity-and-privatisation seems to be creeping into every dimension of the social protection system. But evidence of its harms should give us all pause. (pp. 105-7).

Part of the way the government is selling its privatisation of the NHS to the public is through artificial funding crises, in which hospitals develop massive budget deficits. They are then amalgamated with another hospital under a PFI scheme, or given over to a private healthcare company to manage. Points West, the local BBC news programme for the Bristol region, last night revealed that Southmead hospital was also in the red to the tune of £48 million. And I suspect a similar fate is being lined up for it here.

This privatisation must be stopped, and those who support it – the Conservatives, and the Blairites in New Labour, must be thrown out of office immediately. Only Jeremy Corbyn has said that he will reverse the NHS privatisation. It is up to us to support him, regardless of the smears from the media and the Right.

The Tories, Adolf Hitler and the Secret Courts

March 24, 2016

One of the most grotesque and illiberal piece of legislation that the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers passed in the last parliament was a law providing for secret courts to try cases involving national security. These courts are Kafka-esque travesties of justice, where the defendant may not the evidence against him, or who his accuser is, or even the precise charges against him if this is felt to be sensitive information, which would be harmful to national security if divulged. They are also to be closed to the public and the press for the same reasons.

I’ve blogged before on how these courts resemble the perverted system of justice under the Third Reich and Soviet Russia. The Nazis set up a system of Special Courts from March 1933 onwards. These were to try political crimes without the use of juries. In 1934, the following year, Adolf and his fellow stormtroopers set up People’s Courts to try cases of treason. These did have juries, but they were drawn from the Nazi party.

Cameron and the Tories are a real threat to British democracy and traditional British freedom. They should be thrown out of power for good before it’s too late.

Welfare Weekly: Tories to Repeal Human Rights Act by Next Summer

October 19, 2015

Welfare Weekly have published an article claiming that the Tories intend to fast track the repeal of the Human Rights Act and its replacement with a Bill of Rights by next summer. The article begins

The Government are planning to fast-track a British Bill of Rights, aiming to get the extremely controversial legislation made statute by next summer.

A Bill of Rights was a Conservative manifesto pledge, but is strongly opposed by civil liberties groups that say it will restrict freedoms that are guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Independent reports that a 12-week public consultation on the Conservative Bill of Rights will start in November or December this year. It will be worded to clarify that the UK will not pull out of the European Convention of Human Rights, as some critics have feared, (and actually, as David Cameron has pledged previously) it will even mirror much of the ECHR language in an effort to “calm opposition.”

The Conservative Bill of Rights will go straight to the House of Commons without a Green or White Paper, which are usually introduced before legislative scrutiny.

Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron MP, said not allowing proper scrutiny of the Bill “makes a mockery of parliament”. He added: “Fundamental British rights should not be treated in this haphazard way. Generations before us died for them.”

Mr Farron’s concerns have been echoed by the leading human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC, who described the Government’s intention as an “outrage”.

The complete article is at http://www.welfareweekly.com/tories-to-scrap-human-rights-act-by-next-summer/.

The article states that the Human Rights Act is based on the 1950 convention on human rights, which was formed to prevent any further atrocities such as those committed by the Third Reich. It was strongly supported by Winston Churchill. It makes very clear just how dangerous the government’s repeal of the Human Rights Act is, despite Cameron’s attempts to allay fears by making the new Bill of Rights reflect the wording of the EU convention on human rights and by retaining members of the Convention.

I’ve reblogged several pieces today on the way Cameron and his Tory cronies are gradually undermining our civil liberties using legislation that purports to do just the opposite. This is another case, where the rights the Tories will grant us in the Bill will be much weaker than those currently protected by existing legislation. Cameron and the Tories are totalitarians, and this just one more move in their overall strategy our destroying our constitutional freedoms in the interests of creating an authoritarian state for their big business paymasters.

Hungarian Protester Threatened with Deportation despite Innocent of any Crime

October 19, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has blogged about this story, featured in this Saturday’s Guardian. Daniel Gardonyi, a Hungarian man involved in the Sweet’s Way protest, has been threatened with deportation by the Home Office despite not having been charged with any offence. The article begins:

Lawyers for Hungarian-born man say Home Office threat appears to be illegal and jeopardises right to peaceful protest. A political activist arrested but not charged during peaceful protests is facing illegal deportation from the UK, his lawyer has claimed.

It is thought to be the first case of its kind and has raised serious concerns that the right to peaceful protest, which is enshrined in English law, is being eroded.

Daniel Gardonyi, 34, is Hungarian but has lived in the UK for several years. He is self-employed and has been involved in several high-profile protests, including the occupation of Friern Barnet library in north London and the Sweets Way housing occupation in the borough of Barnet.

He was arrested during the recent Sweets Way protest but not charged with any offence. He then received a letter from the Home Office threatening to remove him from the UK as part of Operation Nexus, a joint police and Home Office operation designed to arrest and deport criminals from other parts of the EU living in the UK.

Lawyers say they believe it is the first time Operation Nexus has been used to target a law-abiding political protester rather than a foreign national offender.

Gardonyi’s solicitor, Daniel Furner, said parts of the letter to Gardonyi threatening to deport him appeared to be unlawful. “It appears that our client has been specifically and systematically targeted as a result of his peaceful, political activities in the UK.”

The full article can be read at http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/oct/17/law-abiding-activist-faces-deportation-from-uk.

This has serious implications for British constitutional freedoms. It shows that the government is willing to clamp down on protestors even when they have not committed a criminal offence. The decision to deport Mr Gardonyi is illegal. It looks like the authorities are determined to punish him for his participation any way they can, and have settled on deportation as they cannot jail him. No doubt they are hoping that they’ll be able to get away with this due to the fact that as foreigner, he doesn’t quite have the same social links and status as native Brits. It hardly needs to be said that if the Home Office gets away with this, they will use it on other foreign born protestors. Previous examples of the way this government has tried to deport foreign citizens has shown how ruthless they are. Some of these cases involve people, who have been here for many years, and are respectable, taxpaying citizens. This counts for nothing.

Furthermore, the crackdown on foreigners joining British protests is only the thin end of the wedge. If the government can break the law to deport a man without charge, then it won’t be long before they break the law to arrest and imprison British citizens for protesting. Cameron and the Tories have already passed legislation demanding that strikers on a picket line should give their names to the police. They and their Lib Dem enablers also set up a system of secret courts, in which those charged may not know who their accusers are, or what the evidence against them is, if the government considers this ‘sensitive’ information.

David Davies attacked the government’s legislation against the unions as ‘Francoist’. He is absolutely right, and this is another totalitarian measure by a government determined to suppress all dissent.

Private Eye on the Political Influence of Big Accountancy

February 16, 2015

In my last post, I criticised the pernicious cross-party influence of the think tanks and lobbying firms. I posted up an article on them from a 2012 issue of Private Eye. That same issue also carried another relevant article, describing the way the big accountancy firms, in this case, PricewaterhouseCoopers were also working for all of the major political parties. They were similarly active promoting their polices of tax avoidance, while avoiding the repercussions for their role in the collapse of banks such as Northern Rock and the development of tax avoidance schemes. The article ran

Anybody wondering why the fallout from recent financial scandals never gets too near the big accountancy firms that are at the heart of so many – the failure to audit collapsing banks properly, the sale of billions’ of pounds’ worth of tax avoidance schemes – will be interested n a few lines from the annual report of PricewaterhouseCoopers (Northern Rock auditor and adviser on Barclays’ tax avoidance schemes, among other lucrative lines).

PwC, it emerges, “provided a total of some 3,454 hours of free technical support to political parties during the year”, valued at £400,000, and made up of “2,622 hours ot the Labour Party and 832 to the Liberal Democrat Party”. In recent years, it reveals, “the trend has been that we have provided more hours to the opposition parties as they have less support infrastructure”.

Small wonder coalition and opposition alike are expanding the opportunities for PwC’s offshore tax schemes (<Eyes passim) and overlooking the obvious need to rein in Britain’s big beancounting operations.

This is exactly correct. Mike over at Vox Political has sharply criticised Rachel Reeves, for example, for accepting the help and advice of the big accountancy firms. This help isn’t free. The cost is the continuing corruption of British politics and the erosion of public confidence in the willingness and ability of their leaders to represent them, not corporate big business.

Peasants of Britain Unite and Kick Out the Pay Day Loan Sharks

May 29, 2014

In my last blog post, I looked at the similarities between a community power company set up by the people of a village here in England, and the various schemes for the cooperative reorganisation of society from Thomas Spence’s Land Plan, for the communal ownership of land by each parish community, and Bulgarian Agrarian National Union’s plans for a national and then international society of cooperative peasant communities.

There’s another policy of the party of the Bulgarian peasantry, which I feel very strongly should be adopted by 21st century Britain: legislation and the reform of the banks to cut out and suppress the pay day loan companies, like Wonga and the rest of the sharks. After the liberation from Ottoman rule hundreds of villages in rural Bulgaria had been forced into serious debt to private moneylenders. Many of the Muslim and ethnic Turkish landowners had emigrated or fled to Turkey, leaving large amount of land available for the Bulgarian peasants. There were, however, no banks available to provide them with the loans and credit they needed to purchase the land and essential tools, and so they turned instead to private moneylenders.

The Bulgarian peasants’ party, BANU, and the peasants’ union which preceded it, attempted to combat this by establishing credit cooperatives. After BANU took power in 1919, they attempted to prevent the moneylenders from reappearing by passing legislation insisting that the banks lend money to the cooperatives on reasonable terms.

Britain too in the 21st century has seen the return of the loan shark and moneylender as thousands, perhaps millions, have got into serious debt. Some of this has been through the absurdly easy credit that was offered in the boom years, when people were encouraged to spend as much as they could through credit cards. Other causes include rising rents and mortgages as well as an increase in prices, while pay has been frozen or even cut. The government’s cuts to unemployment benefit have also forced some to turn to private moneylenders, as the amounts provided by Jobseekers’ Allowance is inadequate, sanctions are imposed seemingly arbitrarily according to the whim of the government and the targets set by the DWP to get people off benefit. Those, who are considered to have left their job without good reason are denied benefit for weeks, and the government is considering imposing a waiting time of about three weeks for new claimants before they can get their money.

As a result, Britain has seen a resurgence, not just in criminal loan sharks, but also in the payday loan companies, like Wonga, which offer easy loans at truly extortion rates. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Julian Welby, is recommending a system of Credit Unions to tackle this. Critics fear this will be inadequate. It may well be, but that doesn’t mean that Credit Unions need not part of a broader programme to combat this. We need legislation to cut down the rates at which Wonga and the other loan companies can lend, to reduce them from the 5,000 per cent odd interest rate they are at the moment to something far more manageable. In America, surely one of the most capitalist nations in the world, they aren’t allowed to lend at over 20 per cent. Passing legislation to insist that everyone gets a living wage would also be a massive improvement, as would a complete stop on benefit sanctions, delays in payment and actually raising the amount of money paid to something people can actually live on.

All this, however, would mean abandoning the harsh, neoliberal economic orthodoxy that demands that the poor be penalised, simply for being poor, under the pretext that somehow their poverty is their own fault. And the Tories and their Tory Democrat allies really don’t want to do that by any means. It’s time for the British peasants to follow the Bulgarians of 1919 to throw out the payday loan companies, and kick the Tories out of office.

Radical Balladry and Prose for Proles: Tom Paine on the Evils of Aristocratic Rule

May 20, 2014

Common Sense Cover

One of the pieces collected by Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove in their anthology of democratic, republican, Socialist and radical texts, The People Speak: Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport, is an excerpt from Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man. Paine was a committed democrat and revolutionary. He was born in Thetford, and made his living from making ladies’ stays, before emigrating to Pennsylvania in 1774. IN 1776 he published Common Sense, attacking British rule in America and demanding a revolutionary, republican government. He became a firm supporter of the French Revolution when it broke out, writing the Rights of Man in 1791 to answer the criticisms of the Revolution made by Edmund Burke in his Reflections of the Revolution in France. He was arrested and imprisoned as a suspected counter-revolutionary for arguing against the execution of the king. He was eventually released, and moved back to Britain.

Rickman, Paine’s friend, described him in 1819 was

In dress and person very cleanly. He wore his hair cued with side curls and powder like a French gentleman of the old school. His eye was full brilliant and piercing and carried in it the muse of fire.

The Rights of Man is the first complete statement of republican political ideas. In the passage included by Firth and Arnove, Paine argues against aristocratic rule and a House of Lords:

Title are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title. The thing is perfectly harmless in itself, but it marks a sort of foppery in the human character which degrades it…

Hitherto we have considered aristocracy chiefly in one point of view. We have now to consider it in another. But whether we view it before or behind, or sideways, or anyway else, domestically or publicly, it is still a monster.

In France, aristocracy had one feature less in its countenance than what it has in some other countries. It did not compose a body of hereditary legislators. it was not ‘a corporation of aristocracy’, for such I have heard M. de la Fayette describe an English house of peers. Let us then examine the grounds upon which the French constitution has resolved against having such a house in France.

Because, in the first place, as is already mentioned, aristocracy is kept up by family tyranny and injustice.

2nd, Because there is an unnatural unfitness in an aristocracy to be legislators for a nation. Their ideas of distributive justice are corrupted at the very source. The begin life trampling on all their younger brothers and sisters, and relations of every kind, and are taught and educated to do so. With what ideas of justice or honor can that man enter a house of legislation, who absorbs in his own person the inheritance of a whole family of children, or metes out some pitiful portion with the insolence of a gift?

3rd, Because the idea of hereditary legislators is as inconsistent as that of hereditary judges, or hereditary juries; and as absurd as an hereditary mathematician, or an hereditary wise man; and as ridiculous as an hereditary poet-laureate.

4th, Because a body of men, holding themselves accountable to nobody, o8ught not to be trusted by anybody.

5th, Because it is continuing the uncivilized principle of governments founded in conquest, and the base idea of man having property in man, and governing him by personal right.

6th, Because aristocracy has a tendency to degenerate the human species.

(Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove, The People Speak: Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport (Edinburgh: Canongate 2012) 108-9.)

More than 200,000 copies of the Rights of Man were sold in England, and Paine denounced by the authorities. The book was banned and its printer arrested. Nevertheless, the book continued to circulate underground, especially in Ireland and Scotland. It even inspired a hornpipe tune, a Scots version of which was included by Robin Williamson of the Incredible String Band, in his collection of folk melodies, English, Welsh, Scottish & Irish Fiddle Tunes (New York: Oak Publications 1976). Here it is:

Tom Paine Hornpipe

Paine’s arguments are clear very relevant today, when reform of the House of Lords is very much on the political agenda following Tony Blair, and with a cabinet of Tory and Tory Democrat aristos, like David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne, and Iain Duncan Smith, who have no knowledge of and absolutely no sympathy for ordinary people. They seem to see us very much as their ancestors did: as proles, peasants and ‘rude mechanicals’, to be exploited, whilst government should be very firmly held in the hands of an aristocratic elite.

An edition of Paine’s Common Sense, edited and with an introduction by Isaac Kramnick, was published by Penguin Books in 1976.

The Overthrow of the French Parliament by the Workers in the 1848 Revolution

April 20, 2014

1848 Book pic

Peter Jones in his book The 1848 Revolutions (Harlow: Longman 1981) describes the events of February 1848 in Paris, which culminated in a mob of workers storming the French Chamber of Deputies to overthrow the government and the monarchy:

On 20 February 1848 the reformers and the opposition to Guizot’s government in France made plans to hold a political banquet in Paris. the banquet was banned by the government and, as a result, the common people of Paris held a procession through the streets in protest against the decision. Their leaders presented a petition to the Chamber of Deputies demanding Guizot’s resignation.

The discontent against the government, and against Guizot in particular, had been growing during 1847 but then it had largely been a campaign of middle-class politicians. Now it was the cause of the common people of Paris and on 22 February 1848 the police had to clear an unruly crowd in the Place de la Madeleine. The next day the King, Louis Philippe, dismissed Guizot and called on Mole to lead the government. But this concession had come too late, because on the same evening a great throng of people had made their way along the Boulevard des Capucines to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs only to find their passage blocked by a troop of cavalry and infantry. According to Victor Hugo, the people at the head of the procession tried to stop and turn aside, ‘but the irresistible pressure of the huge crowd weighed on the front ranks’. A shot rang out, and in the panic that followed a whole volley was fired. At least forty people were killed. The victims were piled on a cart lit with torches and within a few hours the city was blocked with barricades.

On the following morning, 24 February, Alexis de Tocqueville, a prominent member of the Chamber of Deputies, left his house feeling that he could ‘scent revolution in the air’. A group of men gathered round him and asked for news, and he warned them that the only real danger to the government was if they themselves got too excited and took matters to extremes. ‘”That’s all very well, sir,” they said, “the government has got itself into this fix by its own fault; so let it get itself out as best it can …”‘ Louis Philippe had done just that – he had abdicated that same afternoon and a Provisional Government had been set up.

The Provisional Government would probably have decided in favour of a Regency but the invasion of the Chamber of Deputies by a crowd of workers on the afternoon of 24 February pushed the Provisional Government towards a republic. Paris was now in the hands of the workers and the ‘dangerous classes’. Earlier that day they had invaded the Tuileries Palace and dumped Louis Philippe’s empty throne in the courtyard. According to Flaubert the ‘common herd ironically wrapped up in laces and cashmeres … Hats with ostrich feathers adorned blacksmiths’ heads, and ribbons of the Legion of Honour supplied waistbands for the prostitutes’. Lamartine, who was popular with the people, nevertheless witnessed the invasion of the Chamber of Deputies with fear:

‘They crowded the corridors, and rushed with their cries of mortal combat into the spectators’ galleries. Their clothes torn, their shirts open, their arms bare, their fists clenched and resembling muscular clubs, their hair wildly dishevelled, and singed with cartridges, their countenances maddened with the delirium of revolution, their eyes smitten with the spectacle, so novel to them, presented by the Chamber … all revealed them as desperadoes, who were come to make the last assault on the last refuge of royalty.’

They were armed with pikes, bayonets, and sabres. ‘Down with the Regency!’ they shouted, ‘The Republic forever’. Their demonstration meant that the new Provisional Government was forced to include the Socialists Louis Blanc and Flocon, as well as a solitary but symbolic worker, Albert. (pp. 1-2).

From France, the revolutionary movement spread to Bavaria, Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Milan and Palermo. It did not last. They soon fizzled out and were brutally suppressed. In France the forces of the Right regrouped, the Revolution was suppressed and the Provisional Government was replaced by the new monarchy of Napoleon III.

The Workers’ Uprising in the ‘June Days’

The workers rose up again in June in protest at the closure of the National Workshops providing work for the unemployed. Alexis de Tocqueville, the nobleman, whose book on Democracy in America is still one of the great texts of political science, states that they were motivated from hunger.

In that city there were a hundred thousand armed workmen formed into regiments, without work and dying of hunger. Society was cut in two: those who had nothing united in common envy; those who had anything united in common terror. There were no longer ties of sympathy linking these two great classes, and a struggle was everywhere assumed to be inevitable soon… (De Tocqueville, Recollections, in Jones, p. 83).

We Need a Campaign, Not Revolution, to Put Workers and Socialists in Government Today

We don’t need a revolution in this country, with violence and bloodshed. What we do need are more mass demonstrations and pressure on the government and the political parties to change their policies. Now as then, people are starving. Mike over at Vox Political and the other bloggers has estimated that about 55,000 people are dying per year due to government sanctions. The rate could be as high as 78,000. This is massively unreported. Stilloaks over on his blog gives the names and the stories of some of the victims.

Furthermore, the working class are massively under-represented in government and parliament. All the parties are eager to chase the votes of the aspiring middle class, and while there is in itself nothing wrong with this, it has been done at the expense of the working class. Earlier generations of Labour politicians included people from the working class, who made their way into parliament from the trade unions. One of the earliest Labour politicians to be elected to Westminster was an agricultural worker, and gave his autobiography, I believe, the title of ‘From Plough to Parliament’. Ernest Bevin, Labour’s Foreign Minister under Clement Atlee, was a dock worker and founder, with Harry Gosling, of the Transport and General Workers’ Union. Tony Blair and Ed Milliband have tried to loosen the Party’s links with the unions. And many of the modern ranks of politicians across the political spectrum come from very middle class backgrounds. Instead of trade union activism, they frequently come from a more academic background, having read of Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Uni. The Tory and Tory Cabinet are a demonstration of this middle and upper class domination of politics and parliament. They are nearly all toffs with connections to banking and finance.

And the class composition of parliament and the parties shows in the parties’ economic and welfare policies. Any kind of nationalisation is considered unacceptable as they have adopted, to a greater or lesser extent, Thatcherite Neoliberalism. The government’s welfare policies, rather than address problems with the economy as the cause of poverty, blame the workers themselves for being too lazy or ill-prepared to find a job themselves. The result is a policy of punitive sanctions and highly coercive measures forcing the unemployed to work for their benefits to enrich private industry.

It’s time this stopped. We need proper, Socialist economic measures and the members and representatives of the working class back in parliament. The 1848 Revolution put, at least for a time, the Socialists Louis Blanc and Flocon in government, along with Albert, a worker. This was celebrated and praised as an example of what universal suffrage could achieve by the great German Socialist leader, Ferdinand Lassalle. The time is long overdue when a British government also included Socialists and workers.