Posts Tagged ‘Maggie Thatcher’

Still From My Abortive Cartoon Revenge on Iain Duncan Smith

November 25, 2017

Speaking about Iain Duncan Smith, the man who has reduced millions of poverty, forced something like a quarter of million on us to use food banks to keep body and soul together, and whose sanctions systems have been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths of the poor and disabled, here’s a still photograph from a short animated piece I tried making about the man about three years ago. It was my attempt to get some of the hatred and bile out of my system by giving him a virtual comeuppance, if only as a cartoon.

So I portrayed him as a Nazi, making the Fascist salute in front of a portrait of the Leaderene, Maggie Thatcher. Instead of the Nazis’ black or brown shirts, he wears a blue one – the colour of the Tories. Although blue was the colour of the shirts worn by Owen O’Duffy’s Irish Fascist stormtroopers in the 1920s.

Following the conventions of Monty Python, I had a giant hand come out from off screen to punch him and knock him over. As he deserves. And more.

I finally tried animating the whole piece last week, only to find I couldn’t do it on YouTube. They’ve withdrawn the feature that allows you to upload single photos to make a slideshow, which I had been using to make animated shorts. Apparently it was little used. I’ve another programme, which I have used, which turns it into a Gif. Unfortunately, you can’t use gifs with the basis package for WordPress, which I have. So, unfortunately, for the present you’re just going to have to be satisfied with this image of Duncan Smith getting his deserts.

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Media Lies Exposed Again: Most Misogynist Abuse Comes from the Tories

September 6, 2017

Mike today put up a piece blowing away another lie that the Tories and their servants in the media have hawking: that the Left is full of misogynists, who harass and abuse women MPs. In fact Amnesty International have published a report showing that the opposite is true: most abuse comes from the right. And the female politico, who most often suffers it is Diane Abbott.

Who in the Left is honestly surprised by this? There are Conservative varieties of feminism, as you’d expect, but feminism, or women’s lib as it was known in the 1970s, is most often associated with the Left. And as the Austrian democratic socialist Marxist, Karl Kautsky argued, socialism is all about equality. This is why they champion the working class, and why left-wing governments, particularly Communist, have encouraged women to enter politics and the workplace, even if their countries’ traditional culture is very sexist, as it is in Russia and some of the countries of the former eastern bloc.

Conservatives, on the other hand, stress the importance of tradition, and despite having given Britain two female prime ministers, Maggie Thatcher and now Theresa May, this usually also means stressing and promoting traditional gender roles. Thus, while the right-wing broadsheets may earnestly discuss the issue of getting more women into the boardroom, and equal pay, the Daily Heil has been telling its female readers that stable families, and indeed western civilization as a whole, needs women to concentrate on staying at home to raise children, rather than both pursuing independent careers. The image the right projects of feminism is of angry misandrists, which has been a factor in why so many young women a few years ago rejected the term ‘feminism’, even when they had strong feelings about winning equality and rejecting sexism.

There’s also more than a little racism on the Tories’ side as well. The Tory right has always had links to Fascist right, including inviting members of central American death squads over to their annual dinners. A few days ago I put up a piece about Owen Jones’ video on YouTube, in which he commented on an odious conversation by the Tory youth movement, Activate, about gassing chavs and shooting peasants. This wasn’t the first time they had made Nazi comments and bullied the poor and underprivileged by a very long chalk. Jones discussed some prize examples of their foul behavior. This included the members of Oxford University Conservative society goose-stepping around like the real Nazis, singing songs about ‘Dashing through the Reich … killing lots of ****’, the last a very unpleasant terms for Jews. Their comrades north of the border ain’t no better either. This crew thought it would be jolly fun for one of them to dress up as a slave master, while another cringed before him as a slave. It wasn’t that long ago that the Tories in Scotland were known as the Unionist party, and their antics and Thatcher’s complete dismissal of the country was a large factor in the decision of so many Scots to vote for the SNP.

As for the Tory press, they’ve been consistently against coloured immigration since Windrush. And long before then, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they were busy campaigning against allowing ‘aliens’ – that is, eastern European Jews, to enter this country as asylum seekers fleeing the pogroms in eastern Europe. This anti-immigration stance has frequently been blatantly racist. Private Eye, when covering the prosecution of the Scum yet again for racism by the Press Complaints Commission, as it then was, noted that the wretched paper had had 19 judgements against it previously for its racist content. I can remember how the Torygraph, Mail and Express back in the 1980s railed against ‘unassimilable’ immigrants and the way they were forming little ghettoes.

Racism became a major issue in that decade following the 1981/2 riots, and the publication of government reports that revealed a massive culture of institutional racism and Black deprivation in Britain. To the Tory press, however, the riots were all the fault of racist Blacks. While there have been Black and Asian politicians before, Diane Abbott was one of the group of very visible Black politicians and activists to achieve public office during the decade, along with Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant, the leader of Brent Council. They were all very vocal in their opposition to racism. Grant died the other year, and I think Boateng more or less vanished into the depths of Whitehall. There are a number of other Black politicos, like David Lammy, Chuka Umunna and Oona King, but Abbott is one of the longest-serving and most reviled. The Scum tried running a Communism scare against the Labour party in the 1987 election, by putting up a two-page spread with the photographs of Labour MPs and candidates, below which was a few brief quotes or comments showing how they were a threat to British society. Red Ken is supposed to have said that he wasn’t in favour of the British army, but wanted the workers to be armed so they could guard the factories. Under Abbott’s was a quote, ‘All Whites are racist.’

That was very much the image she had at the time. She’s supposed to be very keen on tackling racism, because she felt that her mother’s career was blocked because of her colour. This is actually quite likely. But it’s highly questionable that she’s anti-White. Many of the stories the press published about the supposed hard-left extremists in the Labour party at the time were either exaggerations or completely made up. Ken Livingstone, whom the Eye has frequently mocked under the nickname, Ken Leninspart, really did believe in worker’s control. But he was never a Marxist, and in fact worker’s control used to form only a small part of the subjects he discussed with the, um, ‘gentlemen’ of the press. Most of the time it was rather more mundane. But they played up the worker’s control, and attacked it, because it frightened their proprietors and editors, quite apart from the rest of the middle class. The veteran gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, who was also beginning his career as a Labour politico, was another who was made to appear much more extreme than he was. At one point the papers published a story about him going on holiday to one of the great gay centres on the American west coast. Except that he hadn’t, and didn’t even know the place existed. They also did the same thing to Marc Almond. In his case, they didn’t think he looked sufficiently effeminate, and so retouched his photograph.

Given this long record of telling porky pies about radical politicians, you can’t be sure that Abbot made the above comment, or that it represents her views now. But as Sid James remarked to Tony Hancock in ‘The Scandal Magazine’, mud always sticks, boy. They’ve carried on portraying her as a threat to White history and culture. A few years ago, the Daily Mail ran a story about how the London borough she represents in parliament decided to replace the paintings in their civic offices. Down came the traditional portraits of the White guys, who had previously served on the council, and up came paintings of Black children.

The story was part of a larger article about her, and didn’t offer any details about this, nor the reasons for the decision. Without putting it in so many words, it was presented merely as Abbott’s coterie of angry Blacks removing Whites from the history of the borough. How this supposed racist anger compares with her appearing regularly alongside Michael Portillo on Andrew Neil’s The Daily Politics, where she appears perfectly calm and genial with her White presenters, as befits a grande dame of British politics, I really don’t know.

Nevertheless, she remains a Tory bete noir, and given the fact that there have always been members of the party, who can’t understand why a Black person could ever object to golliwogs, the Black and White Minstrels or why you can make derogatory comments about Black people’s supposed character defects as a race, or use the unpleasant terms previous generations used to insult them, and it becomes quite easy to see why she should be the target for so much abuse.

As for the supposed sexism in the Labour ranks, there was never much substance to that anyway. It was never more than an attempt by wealthy, entitled right-wing Labour female politicians to smear their male rivals. These women had nothing to offer ordinary working Brits, including women. While ordinary women are finding it difficult to pay the bills and feed their families, thanks to the ravages of neoliberalism, these female politicians simply offered more of the same. More cuts, more privatization, more precarity. But like Hillary Clinton, from whom they got the tactic, they wanted to present themselves as representing women in general, even if in fact they only represented rich, entitled women like themselves. And so just Clinton was outraged by the popularity of Bernie Sanders, these women were infuriated by Jeremy Corbyn. Clinton claimed that she had been vilified by the ‘Bernie Bros’, who didn’t actually exist. And so her counterparts in the Labour party over here decided to follow her, and lie about how they were the victims of savage misogyny from Corbyn and the Old Left.

The reality is the opposite. I don’t doubt that there is racism and sexism on the Left. But there’s far less of it than on the right. But the press are still liars for claiming otherwise.

1916 Whitley Committee on Involving Unions in Industrial Management

May 21, 2016

Introduction Unions Pic

Hooberman in ‘An Introduction to British Trade Unions’ also discusses the 1916 Commission on the Relations between Employers and Employed, chaired by J.H. Whitley, which recommended that a system of industrial councils be set up, which brought representatives of management together with those of the employees, and that their should also be similar committees set up in the individual workplaces, as well as a special court to arbitrate labour disputes. Justifying these joint industrial councils, the Commission’s report stated:

… a permanent improvement in the relations between employers and employed must be founded upon something other than a cash basis. What is wanted is that the work people should have a greater opportunity to participating in the discussion about and adjustment of those parts of industry by which they are most affected… We venture to hope that representative men in each industry, with pride in their calling and care for its place as a contributor to the national well-being, will come together in the manner here suggested, and apply themselves to promoting industrial harmony and efficiency and removing the obstacles that have hitherto stood in the way. (P. 63).

In fact, with the exception of the civil service, these proposals did not long outlive the First World War. The unions for their part resented the limitations they placed on collective bargaining. There were attempts to revive the system in 1970s with the NEDCs, but these also failed through the failure of the unions to abide by the demands for pay restraint. This was a major factor in the Winter of Discontent, and the rise of Thatcher, although some historians have said that the blame here does not lie with the unions, who were being asked to fulfil a function which was not theirs, and which was too much of them.

The Tories have since then done their best to curb union membership and the power of the trade unions. Nevertheless, the arguments for workers participation in management is a good one.

Fee Paying, Patronage and Bankruptcy in Pre-NHS Voluntary Hospitals

May 15, 2016

Future Medicine Pic

Yesterday I put up a piece from D. Stark Murray’s 1941 book, The Future of Medicine, which described how some patients were driven to seek medical help from the hospitals, rather than their own family doctors, because they could not afford the doctor’s fees. Murray also describes the poor state of the hospitals at the time he was writing, before the advent of the NHS. Along with the municipal hospitals were the voluntary hospitals. These were supposed to be supported by private charity, but in fact this was no longer sufficient and by his time most of them had large fundraising departments. They also raised money in other ways, through charging fees and running insurance schemes. This was, however, not sufficient, and many of the small voluntary hospitals were facing closure.

Murray wrote

Today the situation is very different, and in some hospitals almost the only part of the service which is voluntary is the work of the honorary medical staff, and only a small proportion of the income arises from gifts donated in a purely voluntary fashion. How far removed from the ideals of Christian charity are those hospitals which need a large staff of paid workers to run an Appeals Department and devise schemes for collecting money! The flag day still remains the most popular method, but serves more and more to illustrate how unreliable charity has become as a means of maintaining the health of the community. Not only are hospitals staffs kept busy finding money, and incidentally costing a very considerable portion of the money which they thus collect, but few patients obtain and service from a voluntary hospital without paying in some way. The hospital almoner, who in earlier days answered the dictionary definition and bestowed the charity of the hospital on the poor, has become instead a collector of whatever small sums even the poorest can be persuaded to pay for services received. To such an extent have the users of hospitals resented this reversal of the voluntary and charitable principles that there has sprung into being, as we have noted, a very largely supported system of insurance by regular contributions against the need for hospital care.

This is of course a better system than that which was at one time the mainstay of many hospitals, and which still exists to a very large extent – the patronage system by which wealthy subscribers earn the right to nominate so many outpatients and so many in-patients according to the amount of their subscription. the securing of such nomination-the letter, or “line” as it is called in many parts of the country-is essential before the patient can obtain hospital care, but it does not guarantee admission, which is still at the discretion of the medical staff, nor does it free the patient from the attention of the lady almoner. It may be noted that membership of hospital contributory schemes does not automatically secure admission either, but it should be sufficient to cover the patient for all charges coming with the scope of the scheme…

For our purposes it is enough to note that the yearly income of all voluntary hospitals shows a steady increase in the proportion obtained as payments from patients, by contribution schemes, and by other similar methods. We must add that local authorities now have the power to pay voluntary hospitals for services rendered, and to make considerable contributions from the rates. If all these amounts are added together, it is found that in the provinces of England and Wales only 32 per cent of the income is gained by new charitable contributions. It has been admitted that the voluntary hospitals have to maintain a constant struggle to discover new methods of raising money, and are constantly revising their system for recovering some part of the cost of maintenance from the patients.

Despite these efforts the voluntary hospitals find themselves increasingly in danger of bankruptcy. It is no exaggeration to say that a very large proportion of the time spent at meetings of hospital boards is taken up with questions which hinge on the state of the hospital’s finances. This may cause difficulties in the medical treatment of patients, for it is a common experience of all staffs of hospitals that even when the Medical Committee is unanimously in favour of certain provisions of certain procedures they may find it impossible to obtain the sanction of the Finance Committee. There are those who fear that an organised hospital service may restrict the rights of the medical staff, but at least patients should be ensured that whatever is necessary for their health and well-being can and will be provided. The voluntary hospitals themselves have realised that they are no longer able to give a service wholly in keeping with modern ideas. An attempt is therefore being made to “rationalise” the hospitals, not in the sense in which a scientist would use the term but in that familiar to business men and industrialists who reorganise great industries so that their output and financial profit may be increased. The Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust, generously financed by Lord Nuffield, is actively engaged in persuading voluntary hospitals that they can no longer exist as isolated units, and is setting up councils and committees to reorganise the voluntary hospitals so as to concentrate their finances, to cut out overlapping hospitals so as to concentrate their finances, and to provide a service which still contain certain features of the present voluntary system.

At the moment it looks as though the Nuffield suggestions for regionally organising the hospital services will lead to the disappearance of some of those voluntary hospitals which are of such a size that they are usually termed “cottage hospitals”. These are usually hospitals so small that they cannot possibly provide a complete hospital service, or can only provide something approaching a complete service by extravagant methods….[C]ottage hospitals usually have no resident medical officer, receive only periodical visits from the consultants of larger hospitals, and are generally staffed by local practitioners. This is of course a complete denial of whole modern conception of the function of a hospital. (pp38-41).

Margaret Thatcher also wanted to introduce greater private enterprise into the NHS, and believed also that it should also get some funding through private charity. And the Tories have gone further, and are now privatising the NHS piecemeal. The current Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has even written a book in which he demands the health service’s abolition.

This shows that, contrary to what the free marketeers of the Tories and Blairite New Labour claim, charity and insurance contributions alone are not sufficient to maintain hospitals. Even under this private system, the Nuffield Trust was considering closing some down. The same is pretty much true of the modern American system. Before the introduction of Obamacare, 20 per cent of Americans could not afford medical insurance, and even with the introduction of this system, insurance contributions can be crippling. Moreover, American private enterprise is hardly cost efficient. In some hospitals, up to 40% of expenditure can be on marketing, administration and maintaining legal departments against malpractice suits. And medical fees amount to something like 1/3 of all American bankruptcy cases.

For the sake of the health of the people of this great nation, we cannot let the Tories privatise the NHS. We must stop them. Now.

Nye Bevan Speech about the NHS in Audio and Text

May 10, 2016

This is another piece from Youtube of a clip from a great left-wing politician, Nye Bevan. Bevan was undoubtedly one of the greatest Labour politicians, and was the man, who set up the NHS. In this short clip, he describes his setting up of the health service. He describes it as ‘good Socialism’, and ‘good Christianity too’. He expresses his pride in having created it, pointing out that it was set up when Winston Churchill said the country was bankrupt. He goes on to say that there is no country in the world, capitalist or Communist, that has anything to compare to it. And he states clearly that when he set it up, he had two aims. The first was to make sure that the medical science and arts of healing were available to all, whether they could afford them or not, and that they well to do should pay. He then clarifies this further by stating that in other words, he rejected the insurance principle. ‘After all,’ he says, ‘you can’t have a second class operation because your insurance card isn’t fully paid up’.

Unfortunately, the video to the clip just shows the crowd, not Bevan himself. I think it may well have been shot from his vantage point, given the megaphone in the foreground. The text also appears in the eye-catching, but also annoying way in which words seem to randomly appear from all over the screen.

Nevertheless, it’s a great speech, from a truly great man.

When Bevan and Atlee set up the NHS in 1948, Britain was indeed bankrupt, and the Tories tried stalling, if not actually trying to stop it’s establishment altogether, by claiming that the country could not afford it. Just as more recently successive Tory administrations from Thatcher onwards have been telling us that we cannot afford the NHS, and that some services must be cut, or else they will be made more efficient through privatisation. And remember the form Labour peer, who got very shirty after he made a suggestion that people supporting the NHS should pay an extra £8 a month for the privilege, only to be told where he could go? The Tories are busy privatising the NHS piecemeal, accelerating a process begun by Maggie and continued by Bliar and New Labour. They must be stopped.

So remember Nye Bevan and this speech.

SPI Joe on Declining School Opportunities to Academy Privatisation

March 30, 2016

SPEye Joe, alias Welfarewrites, has written an extremely, and justifiably impassioned article condemning the Academy schools for denying children and their parents in Knowsley the opportunity to study for ‘A’ levels. All the schools in the area have, apparently, been taken out of the control of the local authority, and the private education corporations running these chains have decided it is not profitable or cost affective to offer ‘A’ level education in them. So, if you want to make sure your child has the opportunity to study for these qualifications, you’re either forced to find an FE college in the area, and I don’t know if there are any, or move. Naturally, SPEye Joe is absolutely furious. He writes

Education is the greatest thing we do. It is the greatest leveller. It is the largest component of our children and our children’s children getting on to have a better life that the one we had.

You can be as fit as a fiddle and lose you health. You can have millions in the bank and lose that in an instant. Yet whatever shit life throws at you, you can never lose your education is one of the old saws we all want to believe and do believe.

So when I read that Knowsley one of the 5 council areas in Merseyside now has no schools offering A level education due to education being taken out of all local authority control and passed to unaccountable businesses called Academies and is done so out directly out of Tory ideology and blind nonsensical fucking mind numbingly stupid ideology and that alone, it really is time to put the Tory Education Secretary to the firing squad in front of her entire family… or is it only acceptable for ranting wing buffoons such as Clarkson to say such things?

There are rumblings right across the media that teachers may strike and may join the junior doctors in that. If there is ever a reason for teachers to strike then surely denying children the right to education is the one issue that will engender the most public support.

The fact this is in Knowsley and close to home is not the issue. I would be in full blown rant mode if this was in Windsor or anywhere else in the UK when we have deliberate government policy of the abandonment of children’s educational life chances because of the market, which is what this is all about.

Profiteers out to make a quick buck have decided in running those excuses for educational establishments known as “Academies” that a whole generation of children living in Knowsley do not merit any chance of educational attainment.

That is a disgrace, an outrage of unbelievable proportion and quite simply fucking stinks.

He also takes good aim at the highly deceptive graphs the Torygraph has published to justify the Tory policy of privatising the education system. This, he concludes, is what Tory education policy amounts to. If the Academies believe that there is more profit to be made in writing off all the children in a particular area, and going somewhere more profitable, than that is what they will do. Leaving the children in the area to be written off as failure by prospective employers, as, through no fault of their own, they don’t have the required level education.

This is what happens when the provision of essential services are left to market forces. It’s why, before the establishment of the NHS, the poorer areas of Britain, especially the rural areas, were badly served for the provision of doctors. They preferred to go where it was more profitable, where there were large numbers of the wealthy, who could afford the costs of medical treatment. And we’re seeing very much the same situation developing now. A few years ago Private Eye reported how a set of GPs’ surgeries, which had been turned over to one of the private healthcare providers to run, had been closed down against the wishes of its patients, because the company considered them to be unprofitable.

Mike over at Vox Political and very many other bloggers have pointed out that the Academies actually perform poorly compared next to state schools. I wrote yesterday that my the logic of Adam Smith himself, the great, molten prophet of Free Market capitalism, worshipped by privatisers and profiteers, actually said that if industries, like those providing the public infrastructure, could not be run efficiently or effectively by private industry, they should be taken over by the state.

But obviously, Thicky Nikki and her masters in the Tory party and paymasters in big business, does not want that, or for anyone to believe it, as it contradicts the Thatcherite faith that private is always better, and prevents them getting hold of a potentially very lucrative service industry. And so our children are going to suffer a sub-standard schooling, which will leave thousands if not millions disadvantaged for life.

Vox Political on Cameron’s Boasting about Selling Arms to Saudi Arabia

February 26, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has a report from the Guardian about Cameron boasting about his arms sales to Saudi Arabia on a visit to the BAE Systems factory in Warton, Lancashire. He did so on the same day that the European Parliament voted for an arms embargo because of the country’s indiscriminate killing of civilians in Yemen. Mike in his comments says that Cameron simply doesn’t appear to understand why selling arms to these people is wrong. It is, according to Mike, the most indictment of him.

David Cameron boasts of ‘brilliant’ UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia

Mike’s right: this is truly scandalous. The Saudi regime has been condemned by a number of international bodies for its bombardment in Yemen. This has included the indiscriminate killing of civilians in what has been cautiously described as possible war crimes. In addition to killing Houthi rebels, the Saudis have also targeted Shi’a mosques, destroyed four hospitals operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres. They’ve also destroyed factories and even taxi drivers. The weapons dropped include cluster bombs, which remain to kill and mutilate in former war zones long after the war has actually stopped. They’re still a real problem in the former Yugoslavia, where people are still being killed and maimed by them, or at least they were a few years ago, long after the war in Bosnia and Kosovo officially ceased. International observers have stated that Saudi Arabia’s campaign in the Yemen looks very much like an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Shi’a. By selling the country arms, Cameron is making Britain complicit in their crimes against humanity.

And Saudi Arabia has also funded terrorism, including al-Qaeda and ISIS, under its head of intelligence, Prince Turki al-Faisal. They’ve had something of a volte-face since then, after ISIS told the Saudis that they were next and issued an ultimatum urging its people to rise up. Nevertheless, we have no business arming a state which, while claiming to represent peace and stability in the region, actually gives aid and succour to our enemies.

The arms trade to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere is extremely lucrative. I’ve blogged elsewhere that Cameron has sold weapons to autocratic states, and countries like South Africa, which have neither need for them, nor the ability to maintain them properly. It’s simply Cameron lining the pockets of the ‘merchants of death’.

Most telling is the childish joy in which he described the arms and warplanes sold as ‘brilliant things’. It reminds me of a spoof of a NATO general way back when I was a lad in the early 1980s. It was on a sketch show called End of Part One. That particular skit was about a British general going to buy nuclear warheads, rather like a young boy trying to buy fireworks, and saying really childish comments like, ‘I want that one. It goes ‘whizzzzzz”, and throwing a tantrum when they don’t have those he wants in stock. The sketch was directed at Britain’s military establishment at the time when Thatcher’s and Reagan’s new Cold War was at its height, and there were real fears that a nuclear war was about to break out. CND was on the rise again, and so the sketch attacked Britain’s generals and its supposed nuclear deterrent as literally puerile warmongers, intent on seeing big bangs without any thought of the consequences, the mass death and mutilation these weapons cause. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the sketch, as it seemed a mite too simplistic. And besides, it simply wasn’t funny or very subtle. On the other hand, it does describe part of Cameron’s attitude and rhetoric here.

David Cameron boasts of ‘brilliant’ UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia

Cameron’s a disgrace, a wannabe dictator over here, and the enabler of autocrats and dictators around the world through the arms trade.

Vox Political: Thatcher Was Urged to Levy Poll Tax on the Homeless

February 20, 2016

This piece from Mike over at Vox Political shows not only what utterly contemptible villains were in Maggie Thatcher’s government, but also how they were blissfully unaware that their wretched tax reforms undermined the basis of civilisation itself. Just as their successors are doing now.

Recently declassified documents released from the National Archives show that Thatcher’s Welsh Secretary, Peter Walker, wanted to impose the ‘Community Charge’ not just on those with homes, but also the homeless. He was afraid that if they were exempt, then people would start sleeping on the streets to avoid paying it. Mike says of this

Obviously Peter Walker was scum and the Poll Tax was a disaster – but worse people than him are running the Conservative Government now.

The idea of charging homeless people a tax on property is clearly ridiculous but that wasn’t the point Walker was trying to make.

He wanted to ensure that every last penny was squeezed from the poorest people, in order to support Conservatives and Tory voters who no doubt needed the money to clean the moat in their duck pond or suchlike. He’s further afraid that the intervening years have made people more susceptible to Tory lies, not less, and that they’ll be taken in the next time they peddle another fraudulent scheme.
See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/19/margaret-thatcher-was-urged-to-make-homeless-people-pay-poll-tax-by-senior-cabinet-minister/.

It’s a truly grotty piece of legislation, but what has been missed is the way that it effectively threatened to destroy part of the fabric of society. If people cannot afford to pay a tax, so that they are forced to leave their homes and sleep rough, then you’ve effectively dealt a blow to civilisation. The very word after all comes from the Latin civilis, a city. It’s part of the reasons why Rome fell: the taxes became so great, urban citizens could no longer afford to pay them. The senatorial aristocracy all moved away to avoid paying their whack, and the burden of taxation fell to the free poor, who couldn’t. As a result, they too moved into the countryside. The result was that in the Third Century AD there was rising inflation and a declining number of urban tradesmen – the bakers, butchers, cobblers, carpenters, smiths and so on that form the industrial and commercial life of cities. The Romans tried to stop this steady migration of tradesmen away from the cities by making certain trades hereditary, setting up a caste system rather like Indian. Unlike India’s, it didn’t work. And so the empire tottered on to its doom as the barbarians invaded.

Not that you’ll hear this from the Tories, including classicists like Boris Johnson. Oh, Boris admires the early Roman Empire with its small bureaucracy, but you won’t hear him talk about how, like now, the Empire fell because the senatorial super-rich decided to escape paying taxes by fleeing to their country estates, just as the super-rich today try to shirk their financial responsibility to society by registering their companies offshore. And they really, really won’t want to talk about how they shifted the tax burden on the free Roman poor, just as today’s working and lower middle classes are also required to make up the tax deficit left by the rich.

No, to them, the real threat to western civilisation comes from an influx of foreigners, just like the Romans had during the barbarian invasions.

But their tax policies and continuing impoverishment of the poorest sections of society are undermining our society and weakening it, quite apart from its complete absence of any morality. These are people, who will grind down the poor to the extent it’ll bring down society itself, just to be that little bit richer.
Complete amoral psychopaths.

Strikes and Industrial Protest in an Anti-Union State: Pre-Revolutionary Russia

February 20, 2016

Like just about all its predecessors, Cameron’s government is doing its level best to emasculate and destroy the trade unions. Thatcher did it back in the 1980s with her union-busting legislation, and then the highly militarised use of the police during the Miners’ strike. Cameron’s trying to destroy them and their political representation in the Labour party through attacks on the union levy, further legal limits on the right to strike, and the legalisation of the use of blackleg labour from agencies to stop strikes being anything but cosmetic. The International Labour Organisation in the UN have denounced this last piece of legislation. And David Davies, one of the most right-wing of the Tory MPs, called Cameron’s plan to force stikers on pickets to giver their names to the police as ‘Francoist’.

Dave Cameron hopes this legislation will leave the unions powerless, and the workforce cowed, willing to accept the very worst wages and conditions. In the short term, he’s probably right, but in the long term, probably not. Not from the example of pre-Revolutionary Russia. The lesson there is quite the opposite: if you grind people down into the dirt for long enough, and deprive them of the right to strike and form unions, they will nevertheless strike and form unions, and the strikes and unrest will get more severe the worse conditions gets and the more force is deployed.

Lionel Kochan, in his Russia in Revolution (London: Paladin 1970) notes that in 19th century Russia it was illegal to form trade unions, go on strike or form any kind of collective organisation for the workers. (p. 42). There were no friendly societies or strike funds to support striking workers. Nevertheless, strikes became a feature of Russian industrial life. To be sure, not all workers went on strike. He states that between 1895 and 1904, only half the workers in factories tended to go on strike, most of which didn’t last very long. The average strike lasted about ten days. (p. 44).

Nevertheless, industrial unrest became so chronic that the government was forced to increase the police and the armed forces to put down strikes. The number of policemen was raised to 1 to 250 workers, and there was one factory inspector, whose duties included warning workers that they could not legally strike, and what would happen to them if they did, for every 3,000 workers. The army was called in to suppress strike action and workers’ demonstrations 19 times in 1893, 50 in 1899, 53 in 1900, 271 in 1901 and 522 in 1902. (p. 47). And the number of those on strike could be huge. During the revolutionary agitation of 1905, 111,000 people had gone on strike by 8th January. (P.88). At its height, there were 125,000 people on strike in the Russian capital. (p.94). In 1907, 740,000 people went on strike. (p. 160).

Most of these strikes were for purely economic reasons – an increase in wages and the betterment of working conditions, rather than for political reforms such as the establishment of a parliament and the right to vote. Nevertheless, the number of political strikes increased as the new century progressed. And this was despite some minimal concessions to modern representative politics, such as the establishment of a parliament – the Duma – albeit on a very restricted franchise by Nicholas II. In 1910 there were 222 strikes involving 46,000 workers. The following year, 1911, there were 466, with 105,110 workers. And the number of political strikes went up from eight in 1910 to twenty four in 1911. (p. 161). In 1912 the number of political strikes rocketed to 1,300. (P.162). And then in 1914, the year the War broke out, the number of strikes as a whole shot up to 3,466, of which 2,500 were politically motivated.(p. 164).

In many ways, this is to be expected. If you drive people down to the point where they have absolutely nothing to lose, they will revolt, and revolt violently. At one point wages were so low -just 40 kopeks – that they were insufficient for a worker to support a family. You can compare that to the in-work poverty today, where most welfare recipients are people working, often very long hours, but not earning enough to support themselves or their families.

Despite the glowing picture of the Developing World by the Tory writers of Britannia Unchained, which urged Brits to work harder for less money, ’cause that’s what workers outside the West are doing, parts of India is currently riven by Maoist rebels. I’ve mentioned the Naxites before, radical Marxists in the poorest states in Indian waging a guerrilla war on behalf of the peasants and Dalits. And much of the radical Muslim unrest and terrorism in India has concrete social and economic motives. In many areas, Muslims are treated as second-class citizens, given the worst jobs and with an unemployment rate higher than their Hindu compatriots. In fact, most of the Islamic unrest throughout the world probably has its origins less in religious doctrine and more in conditions of high unemployment, low pay, poor opportunities and political sclerosis.

By making democracy a sham, and repressing unions and other organisations trying to work for better wages and working conditions, Cameron is storing up problems for the future. The Fascist dictatorships of Salazar in Portugal and Franco in Spain collapsed, partly through workers’ strikes. As did the Communist dictatorships at the opposite end of Europe.

Now Cameron needs to maintain the illusion of democracy, and some minimal welfare state in order to deceive people that his government is actually democratic, and he is doing something to help them. After all, Bismarck said

Give the workman the right to work as long as he is healthy, assure him care when he is sick, assure him maintenance when he is old … If you do that … then I believe the gentlemen of the Social-Democratic programme will sound their bird-calls in vain. (Cited in Koch, p. 48).

Of course, Cameron is doing his best to make sure people don’t have the right to work, or are cared for and maintained in sickness and old age. He wants to pass welfare provision on to private industry, who will provide a much poorer service. But he needs to give the illusion that he is doing all the above. And it’ll probably work – for a time. Possibly even decades. But at the end there will be an explosion. And it may be all the more bloody, because of the way he has reduced democracy to a sham, so that people will just discard it in favour of authoritarianism, just as after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 millions of Germans were convinced that democracy had failed.

But what does Cameron care? He probably banks on being long dead by then, if he gives it any thought at all. Or perhaps he dreams of fleeing somewhere else, when the conflagration finally comes. To Switzerland, perhaps. Or the Cayman Islands. South America. Perhaps, America itself, always assuming Sanders doesn’t get in. And if it all kicks off before then, he, or Bojo, or some other Tory pratt, will indulge their stupid fantasy of being a great war leader, bravely reconquering the cities from Communist militants.

And we’re back to Orwell’s description of the future: a boot stamping on a human face. Forever.

Secular Talk on Donald Trump’s Confused Position on Healthcare

February 11, 2016

This is an interesting piece. Kyle Kulinski takes apart The Donald’s weird and confused answer on the question of healthcare in the Republican presidential debates. The moderator notes that Trump has said that he wants to repeal Obamacare, and opposes the introduction of universal healthcare, because it would lead to massive tax rises across America. So she asks the obvious question: What would he replace it with?

At which point, Trump starts humming and ha-ing, stating that there are a lots of examples of what could be done. He would repeal Obamacare, but make sure everyone was covered. He would introduce greater competition, and go back to free enterprise. He states he would repeal the arbitrary red line about insurance, and then criticises the insurance companies for pushing up the cost of healthcare to unaffordable levels, and profiting from it. He then states that the costs would come down if they were forced to compete, and praises the excellent saving schemes for medical care. He then talks about people dying in the street from lack of healthcare, and states it’s a disgrace.

Kulinski states that he’s arguing for two different things here at the same time. He’s arguing for universal healthcare coverage, which would be Obamacare. And then he talks about free enterprise and repealing the existing system. Kulinski points out that despite Obamacare, the American healthcare system is still free enterprise. And 40-45,000 Americans die each year because they can’t afford medical treatment.

Kulinski also points out that it’s the same tactic Trump has used regarding the situation in Syria. He has stated that America should not get involved, and Putin should be allowed to go to sort out ISIS and the other terrorists. Then, a little while later, he demands America should go in and stop Putin. It appeals to do different sets of voters, who just hear the pieces they want to hear, and don’t think about the contradictions.

As for repealing the artificial red line about insurance, that means he wants to allow the citizens of one state to buy insurance in another. This means that eventually all the insurance companies will go to the state with lowest tax rates. But it appeals to the same people, whose complete absence of reason and logic makes them cheer at signs saying ‘Get government out of my medicare’, despite the fact that medicare is a government system.

This is another important piece to watch, as it has implications beyond the Tyrant of Trump Tower. Insurance costs have spiralled out of control immensely in America, and 20 per cent of Americans can no longer afford their medical care. This is why Obamacare was brought in, and why Bernie Sanders is extremely popular with his proposal for universal healthcare.

The libertarian Right, on the other hand, really can’t accept that there’s anything wrong with a private healthcare system, or that it’s made healthcare unaffordable. They’re recommending instead ending insurance coverage, convinced that this will make healthcare cheaper. This conveniently forgets that the reason why the insurance companies moved into healthcare, was because Americans could not afford their medical bills.

Remember: this is the kind of system the Tories wish to introduce into England. Jeremy Hunt wishes to sell off the Health Service. One of the other Tories drones said that if they were re-elected, then it wouldn’t last another five years. They’d just reduce it to a central clearing house for insurance. Maggie Thatcher was looking into privatising it, but realised that it would be extremely ‘courageous’. Wasserman, one of the two apparatchiks involved in the proposal, is now a member of Cameron’s task force looking into it.

What is going on in America will come to Britain if the Tories have their way. It will mean that 20 per cent or more of Britain’s won’t be able to afford healthcare coverage, and will die in the street.

Don’t take it. Vote them out before it happens.