Posts Tagged ‘‘Making Our Way’’

Vox Political: Neil Kinnock Due to Attack Corbyn on Panorama Tomorrow

September 18, 2016

Mike today has also put up a piece commenting on an article from BBC News that Neil Kinnock has warned that the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader would be disaster for the party. He is quoted as saying “Unless things change radically, and rapidly, it’s very doubtful I’ll see another Labour government in my lifetime.” He calls the current situation the ‘greatest crisis’ in the history of the party. Mike pointedly asks whether he’s referring to the possibility of having a real socialist in charge of the Labour party, or genuine democracy in the party, and states, ‘Methinks he doth protest too much.’

Lord Kinnock warns against Jeremy Corbyn re-election (again – at length)

I don’t take Kinnock’s comments seriously for a variety of reasons. Firstly, as some of the commenters point out, he rapidly changed his ideological tune after losing two elections. Pjay Mac, Pablo N and Nanma Vanda make the point that Kinnock entered the House of Lords after years of violently opposing it, and that he’s speaking now as a member of that very privileged group. After he left office in Britain, Kinnock also went off to the EU to accept a very well paid post there as a Commissioner, all paid for by the European taxpayer, of course. And yes, it is precisely the type of unelected office that UKIP made much of in their pronouncements about the anti-democratic nature of the EU.

What hasn’t been mentioned yet, but should, is that Kinnock is directly responsible for New Labour. A few years ago Lobster published a little piece arguing that Kinnock was right in his 1986 book, Making Our Way (Oxford: Basil Blackwell). This was when he was still a socialist. The former Labour leader realised, quite correctly, that British manufacturing had suffered from underinvestment due to the concentration of Thatcher’s government in promoting the financial sector and the City of London. Then Kinnock lost the 1987 election, and began the process of ‘modernising’ the party in line with Thatcherism and the perceived ascendancy of free market neoliberalism. It was Kinnock, not John Smith, who began the process of abandoning manufacturing industry, embracing privatisation, and crucially the winning the support of the City of London through promising them that a future Labour government would deregulate the sector and govern with a ‘light touch’. As part of his campaign, he launched the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’, in which Gordon Brown and Mo Mowlam dined with leading bankers and financiers.

He is the politician ultimately responsible for the creation of New Labour and Tony Blair. As such, he is hardly likely to give his backing to an old fashioned socialist like Jeremy Corbyn. This would mean effectively writing off three decades and more of ideological change, and recognising that he has led the party up a social and economic dead end. Just as Thatcherism has done to the politics of not just this, but many other nations around the world.

As he is very definitely not going to do that, his opinion simply has no validity.

It’s not even historically true. The Labour party has suffered a series of profound crises in its long career. It has split several times. The ILP and Social Democratic Federation left in the 1920s and 30s. It was also divided over the question of forming a coalition government in the ’30s. The party’s defeat in the 1951 general election also led to a reformulation of what it stood for, in which Hugh Gaitskell tried to drop Clause 4, and Tony Crosland argue instead that the party should abandon any attempt at further nationalisation, and concentrate instead for ‘taming’ capitalism so as to provide better wages and conditions, not just for the workers, but for everyone. The infighting that breaks out within the Labour party has been so regular, that a BBC commenter way back in the 1980s or 1990s one remarked that every generation has seen a battle for the party’s soul.

I think there is one difference, in that the infighting this time is particularly bitter as the Labour Right – the Blairites are so right-wing and have effectively stopped being members of the Labour party in terms of ideology and policy. They have little in common with traditional socialists, like Corbyn, who are actually centre-left, let alone the real far Left, despite the guff spouted by Kinnock and the other neoliberal cheerleaders.

Kinnock is wrong about Corbyn, and definitely wrong about the wonders of privatisation, the unregulated free market and cutting welfare. He is simply another Tory chattering voice attacking the real socialists and Labour members supporting Corbyn. Treat him as such.

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John McConnell Promises National Investment Bank and £500 Billion Credit for UK

July 19, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up another piece today, which reports that Jeremy Corbyn’s deputy, John McConnell, has promised to set up a National Investment Bank, tied in with a network of regional banks, to regenerate Britain’s communities and revive Britain’s industries after years of neglect. The bank is based on the German Development Bank. In addition, he promised £500 billion of investment. This follows Owen Smith’s promise when launching his leadership campaign this week end, to introduce a British ‘New Deal’, and an investment programme of £200 billion.

See Mike’s article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/18/labour-pledges-national-investment-bank-to-mobilise-500bn/

Both McConnell and Smith are right about investment in British firms by the British state being sorely needed. But McConnell is absolutely correct about the necessity of a special British investment bank to channel the money and provide the necessary credit. It’s been needed for decades. The authors of the 1s987 book, Socialist Enterprise, noted that the British financial sector was structured into investing abroad, and recommended the creation of such a bank. Neil Kinnock, in his 1987 book, Making Our Way, recognised the need for it. G.D.H. Cole, in his book, Great Britain in the Post-War World, written as long ago as 1942, recommended a similar radical reform of the banking industry. That should tell you how desperately it’s needed, and why McConnell is right.

Han-Joon Chang, in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, argues in one of his chapters that it simply isn’t true that we are living in a post-industrial society. Britain still has a manufacturing industry, and it’s still immensely important. It only appears unimportant, because it hasn’t grown as much as the financial sector. It is, however, still of fundamentally vital importance to our economy.

All of this, of course, will be unwelcome news to the Tory party and New Labour. Both of these turned to subsidising and supporting the financial sector as an alternative to, and at the expensive of, manufacturing. One of the functionaries Blair appointed to the Bank of England was an American banker, Deanne Julius, who stated that Britain should give up manufacturing products and leave that to America. As for the Conservatives, half of their funding at the last election came from the City of London. They have no interest and absolutely no desire to aid a British manufacturing revival. Not if it means having to spend government money, rather than rely on a bail-out by a foreign firm.

Way back in the 1970s the late Tony Benn tried something similar. The government set up various zones, and schemes in which firms could receive government grants to renovate and modernise plant and equipment. I don’t think it was taken up, and British firms continued to lag behind their foreign competitors. And the result has been the decimation of British industry in the decades since Thatcher took power.

McConnell and Benn stand for British industry, and investment to create real jobs and economic growth. All Maggie Thatcher did was cut, and hope foreign firms would come in to invest in what was left. All the while favouring the financial sector and her friends in the City. It also shows the hollowness of the Tories’ claim to represent British industry. They don’t. Labour represents industry, and the people who work in it. The Tories simply represent capital and those, who own it. The very people, who seem to enjoy increased bonuses and share options by cutting down to the point of destroying the very firms they manage.

John Strachey’s Socialist Programme

July 11, 2016

Strachey Socialism pic

The Socialist writer and activist, John Strachey, laid out his programme for a radical reform of society and the economic system in his 1940 book A Programme for Progress (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd). He was deeply impressed with Roosevelt’s New Deal in America, which formed the second part of his book. The third was devoted to Fascism, its connections to monopoly capitalism, and why it had led the world into war. He was acutely concerned with the way the banks and financial sector worked, not to benefit society, but to keep the whole capitalist class in power at the expense of the rest of the population. He therefore wished to see the banks taken over by the state, and subject to fundamental reform so that the operated a zero, or very low interest rate, which would benefit working people, and the country as a whole, rather than just generate profits for the wealthy.

He laid out his six point programme at the beginning of ‘Chapter XII: Conclusions’. These were

(1) The promotion of all kinds of public, or mixed, investment and enterprise, which is not, or is not wholly, dependent on the expectation of profit as its incentive.

(2) The lowering of the rate of interest to all intending borrowers, thus making investment and enterprise more attractive to all private borrowers at a given expectation of profit, and more possible to all public borrowers.

Both these expansionist measures should be financed, so long as general unemployment exists, by the methods which will be made possible by the fifth and sixth measures of this programme.

(3) The redistribution of income from the rich to the poor, effected by means of those kinds of taxation which are not mainly, or not at any rate not entirely, reckoned as a part of the costs of production (e.g. death duties).

(4) The payment of greatly increased pensions and allowances, and other social services, so long as general unemployment exists, out of newly created money rather than out of taxation.

(5) The development of a national, and public, as opposed to a commercial and profit-making banking system.

This is the decisive point in the programme. Unless this is accomplished, nothing else can be done. for the secure establishment of a genuinely national, public and non-profit-making banking system would mean that the main stronghold of that financial, and essentially monopolistic, interest which is to-day strangling the life of the community had fallen. That interest is the parent of Fascism. Leave it in control, and political reaction is bound to follow. Break it by united and well-directed popular action, and the road to progress is open.

(6). A strict public control over the balance of foreign payments.

This measure, too, though not so central as the fifth point is indispensable. For it alone provides an adequate protection against the counter-offensive which monopolistic finance is certain to loose against any progressive programme.

Without these last two measures of control it is not, then, possible to take the four former measures, designed to increase general purchasing power and so effectively to combat the curse of the unemployment of the working population.

It must be clearly understood that such a programme as this is not put forward as a substitute for the more familiar proposals of the progressive parties, such as the raising of wages, the shortening of hours, the institution of holidays with pay, the nationalisation of this or that industry, the democratisation of our political system, the development of a democratic foreign policy, etc. On the contrary, the above-described expansionist programme is submitted for serious consideration as providing an indispensable economic basis, without which all the other invaluable work of a progressive government will inevitably be wasted. (pp151-3).

Ha-Joon Chang in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, in one of the very first chapters shows that state industries can not only be profitable, they are also more stable than conventional companies, run for the benefit of the shareholders, as the state has a vested interest in their continued profitability and operation. Shareholders, on the other hand, are interested in immediate, short term profits, and will pull out if the company experiences difficulties. He notes specific cases where companies have destroyed themselves through their refusals to invest in new plant and machinery, and actually sold off their assets and shed staff, in order to keep the share price high, until they’ve killed themselves off through their own cost-cutting.

Strachey is also right about the financial sector. It is not geared to investment in the UK, as has been argued over the years by very many socialist politicians, including Neil Kinnock in his book, Making Our Way. The current austerity regime has been inflicted because of the massive incompetence of the financial sector, brought about through decades of right-wing administrations demanding greater deregulation, culminating in Labour’s ‘light touch’. The banks have been bailed out and their profits assured, at the expense of everyone else. In Europe, Greece is being looted and remains prostrate at the extreme of poverty because of ruthless austerity measures imposed on them by the European banking system. And then there’s the continuing scandal of the massive debt repayments demanded of the nations in the Developing World.

I don’t know if Strachey’s financial reforms would work, but we desperately need to curb the power of the banks and make sure they serve us, rather than the other way round.

Neil Kinnock in 1987 on Tory Cuts to Apprenticeships and Vocational Training

June 1, 2014

Kinnock Book

I found Neil Kinnock’s book, Making Our Way (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1986) in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham on Friday. It was written by the former leader of the Labour party, now an EU commissioner in Brussels, to make the case for the Labour party and genuinely socialist policies against the Thatcher administration. Unfortunately, after losing the election the following year, in 1987, Kinnock and the party’s leadership gradually rejected these, and turned from promoting manufacturing industry to courting and promoting the financial sector instead. This was done by Mo Mowlam and Gordon Brown in the party’s ‘prawn cocktail’ offensive, which eventually produced Blair and New Labour. The book’s arguments are still sound, however, and in many ways similar to those in Socialist Enterprise: Reclaiming the Economy by Diana Gilhespy, Ken Jones, Tony Manwaring, Henry Neuburger and Adam Sharples (Nottingham: Spokesman 1986).

One of the areas of government policy criticised by Kinnock is the attack and cuts to vocational training and education. The red-headed leader points to the fact that Britain’s industrial competitors, such as German and Japan, placed a very high emphasis on creating a skilled workforce that could serve their manufacturing economy. This was reflected in their school systems, which also included vocational, technical education. Science and engineering were also much more respected and promoted, so that these countries had many more of these to work in industry. Advocates of greater support and promotion of engineering in British education, for example, have for a long time pointed out that while in Britain the term ‘engineer’ may refer simply to metal-worker – a skilled or semi-skilled worker, for example, in Germany it’s status is much higher, and will denote professors of engineering and highly skilled technicians on a level with scientists. Kinnock also points out that Germany also has a far higher number of apprenticeships, designed to provide young workers with the skills they need. Yet in England, the number of apprenticeships was not only smaller, but actually declining. Kinnock describes this, and criticises the Youth Training Scheme, the government scheme that was introduced to combat unemployment by teaching young workers industrial skills. He writes

When the impact of government policies on training is examined an equally alarming picture emerges. The traditional method of vocational education and training for the 16-19 age group – or, at least, boys in that age group – has been the apprenticeship. But during the last few years the numbers of apprentices starting in British industry has declined drastically, from 120,000 in 1979 to 40,000 in 1983, while in the latter year in GErmany 620,000 young people were beginning high-quality apprenticeships. The decline in the number of apprenticeships has been due partly to the massive contraction of manufacturing industry and partly to cuts in government support for local government. Little of the reduction has come as a result of the modernization or reform of initial training. And while government economic policies were wiping out apprenticeship opportunities, the government was also closing Skillcentres, abolishing 16 Industry Training Boards and withdrawing Exchequer support for industrial training and retraining. Apologists for the government insist, of course, that the operations of the Manpower Services Commission and the Youth Training Scheme in particular are more than making up for these losses. It is true that the efforts of people in the MSC, the YTS and the associated activities can produce training of high quality. But the scale of that standard of provision is simply not great enough to compensate for the losses, let alone meet modern training and retraining needs in a country where mass unemployment adds to the crises causes by a history of undertraining.

The apprenticeship system, the Training Boards, the Skill-centres all fell short of perfection. But they have not been replaced by a superior system meeting the comprehensive training skill supply of the nation. They have been replaced by forms of mass provision which beautify the unemployment figures but too frequently fail to enhance either the employment prospects of individuals or the strength of the economy.

The YTS has the advantage that it is universal and, at long last, is being extended to two-year duration. But that extension, the facility for qualification, the opportunities for continuing education and the resources for instruction and for payment to trainees have been grudgingly granted. As a result, Tory politicians have not met the requirements identified by those experienced in education and training. The arguments of the latter should be heeded. They are not empire-building and they do not make the case for greater quality or quantity of support and improved programme content and opportunity out of selfishness. Rather, they recognise that half-hearted provision means downhearted trainees, incomplete and devalued training and, in many cases, a cynicism which overwhelms youthful and parental hopes.

Given the history of deficiency in British training and the division in attitudes and therefore expectations between ‘education’ and ‘training’ in our country, it was not surprising that the approach to change should be faltering, cautious and prone to the errors of snobbery, conservatism and complacency. In many ways, change on the scale that has been needed for decades would amount to a cultural, educational and industrial revolution against ignorance, short-sightedness, convention and vested interests. The decades have certainly passed; and some of the change has come – but slowly, and circumstances now require urgency. That urgency is simply not manifested by the government, and industry, with a few honourable exceptions, has neither the will nor the feeling of obligation to meet large-scale additional provision spontaneously.

Trained and educated human abilities, the incomparable requirement of resilient economic recovery and advance for the Britain of the 1990s and beyond are not being developed to anything like the extent necessary to meet national needs. The seed corn is either being devoured, as education and training are cut or constrained, or not even being planted. The consequences for the harvest are clear and awful. (pp. 140-2).

The situation has changes since then. Higher education has been massively expanded to the point where about 45 per cent of school leavers go on to university and there was an attempt, back in the 1990s, to reintroduce apprenticeships. The main argument, however, is as true as ever. Britain’s industrial base was deliberately decimated by Thatcher to break the back of the unions and produce a prostrate, servile workforce ready for exploitation. The various workfare and WRAG schemes are the result of this. This is intended to give the impression that the government is actively trying to give new skills to the workforce and maintain the illusion that there are still jobs out there, for anyone willing to make an effort. The reality is that simply the opposite. There are few jobs, with a vast number of candidates competing for them. And this is precisely what is demanded by the Chicago school of economists, like von Hayek and Milton Friedman, who inspired Thatcher. Their theories demand an unemployment rate of 6 per cent to keep wages down. All the while, of course, giving cheap, publicly subsidised labour to business, including big firms like Tesco’s that definitely don’t need it.

And so what Kinnock said about the YTS applies in spades to them. Workfare is indeed a form of mass provision which beautifies the unemployment figures but too frequently fails to enhance either the employment prospects of individuals or the strength of the economy. They are a ‘half-hearted provision’ which has produced downhearted trainees, incomplete and devalued training and, in many cases, a cynicism which overwhelms youthful and parental hopes.

It’s time workfare, and the whole benighted Tory approach to manufacturing industry and a genuinely skilled workforce was thrown out with them and the other Thatcherite ideological rubbish, before another thirty years goes past.