Posts Tagged ‘Middle Classes’

May Abuses Constitution to Cling to Power – Just Like Hitler

June 19, 2017

No, this isn’t another example of Godwin’s Law. This is a very real instance where the Tories and the Nazis pursue similar legalistic tactics to seize power without a democratic mandate.

Remember back last summer, when one of the comments incorrectly cited by the Israel lobby to support their accusations of anti-Semitism against one of Corbyn’s supporters was a quote from Martin Luther King? The great civil rights leader had said ‘Everything Hitler did was legal’. Historically, MLK was absolutely right. Hitler and Mussolini came to power through the skillful manipulation of their countries’ democratic institutions and their constitution. They were even careful to make sure that the Holocaust – the horrific mass murder of six million Jews – had a legal basis in the German constitution. A few years ago the Beeb staged a drama documentary of the Wannsee Conference, the infamous secret meeting of the Nazi leaders to plan the genocide of the Jewish people in occupied Europe. At one point the drama showed the Nazi party lawyer briefly raising a point against the enactment of the Holocaust. He wasn’t against it for any moral reason. His only objection to it was his concern that it wouldn’t be legal.

Far from being popular revolutions, as they claimed, the Nazis and the Italian Fascists before them were able to seize power through democratic campaigning, and exploiting the political weakness of their right-wing rivals as the various coalitions that had governed Italy and Germany broke down. The governing right-wing parties needed a coalition partner to form a government. And Mussolini in Italy and then Hitler over a decade later were asked to join them in government. The Fascists and Nazis then exploited the political impasse to become the dominant party in these new, rightist coalitions, and then used a series of political crises to ensure that they became the only party following their victory in an election. In the case of Mussolini, the Fascists with the aid of the right wing of the Liberal party altered the Italian constitution so that the whole of Italy became a single electoral district, thus giving them the majority they needed to seize power as the only permitted political party. If the constitution had not been altered, and the separate, individual electoral districts had retained, Mussolini probably wouldn’t have one the election at all. In fact, he was personally embarrassed by the results. In Mussolini’s home town of Pridappa, nobody voted for him or his thugs.

It’s very clear how this situation also applied to Black Americans before the ending of segregation. America is a democratic state, which prides itself on its constitution and democratic institutions. Yet it was also state where Blacks, and other ethnic minorities, such as its indigenous peoples, were marginalised and oppressed through a set of regulations designed to maintain White political and social dominance, a set of regulations that were clearly anti-democratic in that they violated the fundamental democratic principle of equality for everyone under the law, but which nevertheless also claimed a basis in democracy through the support of the majority.

Now it seems Theresa May is also trying to manipulate the British constitution so she can cling to power without a clear electoral mandate. The elections have resulted in a hung parliament. The Conservatives have the largest number of seats in parliament, but lack an overall majority. So May has been desperately trying to form a coalition with the extremely right-wing DUP, a party with connections to Loyalist terror gangs in Ulster, such as the UDA and UVF. And Mike has also reported how she has cancelled next year’s Queen’s Speech, citing the need to maintain a solid government for Brexit, in order to hang on to another two years of power.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/18/desperate-theresa-may-is-playing-fast-and-loose-with-our-constitution-to-keep-herself-in-power/

I don’t think Brexit is particularly important to May. It certainly isn’t to the great mass of the British people. In a poll, only 15 per cent said it was a priority. However, it is a priority for business, and just about the only issue May has left to campaign on, now that a majority of the British public have shown that they don’t like the promises outlined in the Tory manifesto. The Tories are busily revising this to exclude the most unpopular, such as the Dementia Tax.

Meanwhile, the Tory whips are trying to drum up support for May as this country’s defence against ‘Marxist’ Jeremy Corbyn.

This really is the tactics of the Nazis. The Nazis and the Italian Fascists were crisis regimes. That is, they claimed their mandate to rule through a desperate crisis – the threat of Communism – which was facing their countries. In both cases, the threat of a Communist revolution or insurrection was gone when they seized power. Nevertheless, they were adept at exploiting the fear of a Communist uprising amongst the upper and middle classes.

And they exploited their nations’ constitutional provision for government by presidential decree for the duration of the crisis. This had been invoked by Hindenburg, the right-wing German president, in the late 1920s and first years of the ’30s when the coalition between the SDP, Catholic Centre Party and the Liberal parties broke down. It was then adopted by Adolf Hitler, who used it to keep the regime in power.

The German constitution dictated that the state of emergency could only last four years unless it was renewed. And so every four years, Hitler had to call the Reichstag, which was composed solely of members of the Nazi party, to renew the state of national emergency that kept the Nazis in power.

Similar to the way May is using the crisis of negotiations with the EU to extend her term in parliament beyond her actual democratic mandate to govern.

The Tories are now showing that they’re an active threat to democracy in this country. Blair’s New Labour and the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers led by David Cameron and Nick Clegg, passed a series of legislation providing for secret courts. If it is deemed necessary for reasons of national emergency, a person may be tried in secret, with the evidence against him kept from both him-or herself and his/her lawyer. The accused may also not be told the identity of their accuser.

It is exactly the type of legal system that was set up in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

And now May is also seeking to manipulate the British constitution, so she can secure a few more years of rule without the support of the British electorate.

This is another step towards authoritarianism and dictatorship, in which parliament only becomes a rubber stamp, or indeed a democratic façade, for an antidemocratic administration.

This has to be stopped. Now.
May either forms a workable coalition government. If she cannot do so within the next few weeks, then there should be absolutely no question of calling another election.

And this time voting her and her vile party out.

Bernie Sanders’ Presidential Medicare For All Bill

April 3, 2017

In his book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, which I reviewed yesterday, Bernie Sanders devotes an entire chapter to the problem of healthcare. He states very clearly and in great detail why America a system of free healthcare, which he calls Medicare For All. He shows that 48 million Americans cannot afford health insurance, and those that can, still may not be able to afford to go to the doctor because of the complex system of deductions that are part of private health insurance policies. The costs of prescription drugs is artificially high thanks to the pharmaceutical companies, so that poor Americans may not be able to afford them. Despite the Republicans sounding off, like the Tories over here, about the importance of access to mental health care, this is all beyond the reach of many Americans. As is proper dentistry. I’m English. Orwell joked as long ago as the 1940s in his book The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English, how my people have bad teeth, and it’s a gibe that’s been made regularly by Americans ever since. But despite the shining whiteness of the toothy-pegs of Hollywood celebrities, even this is beyond many Americans. Sanders describes how dentists and dental nurses in one county in Virginia once a month treat patients free for a day. So desperate are people for this treatment, that they actually sleep over night in their cars.

America needs Medicare For All. Bernie included it as one of the planks of his presidential campaign. He gives the text of it in his book. Here it is.

Medicare For All:
Leaving No One Behind

Coverage

A federally administered single-payer health care p0rogram means comprehensive coverage for all Americans. This plan will cover the entire continuum of health care, from inpatient to outpatient care; preventive to emergency care; primary to specialty care, including long-term and palliative care; vision, hearing and oral health care; mental health and substance abuse services; as well as prescription medications, medical equipment, supplies, diagnostics, and treatments. Patients will be able to choose a health care provider without worrying about whether that provider is in-network and will be able to get the care they need without having to read any fine print or trying to figure out how they can afford the out-of-pocket costs.

What It Means for Patients

As a patient, all you need to do is go to the doctor and show your insurance card. A single-payer plan means no more co-pays, no more deductibles, and more fighting with insurance companies when they fail to pay for charges.

Getting Health Care Spending Under Control

We outspend all other countries on our health, and our medical spending continues to grow faster than the rate of the inflation. Creating a single, public insurance system will go a long way toward getting health care spending under control. The United States has thousands of different health insurance plans, all of which set different reimbursement rates across different networks for providers and procedures. This results in an enormous amount of paperwork and high administration costs. Two patients with the same condition may get very different care depending on where they live, the health insurance they have, and what their insurance covers. A patient may pay different amounts for the same prescription drug depending solely on where the prescription is filled. Health care providers and patients must navigate this complex and bewildering system, wasting precious time and resources.

By moving to an integrated system, the government will finally have the ability to stand up to drug companies and negotiate fair prices for the American people collectively. The government will also be able to track access to various providers and make smart investments to avoid provider shortages and ensure that communities have the providers they need.

Major Savings for Families and Businesses

The United States currently spends $3.2 trillion on health care each year – about $10,000 per person. Reforming our system, simplifying our payment structure, and incentivising new ways to make sure patients are actually getting better care will generate massive savings. This plan has been estimated to save the American people and businesses more than $6 trillion over the next decade.

The Typical Middle Class Family Would Save Over $5,000 Under This Plan

Last year, the average working family paid $4,955 in premiums and $1,318 in deductibles to private health insurance companies. Under this plan, a family of four earning $50,000 would pay just $466 per year to the single-payer programme, amounting to a saving of over $5,800 for that family each year.

Business Would Save Over $9,400 a Year
in Health Care Costs for the
Average Employee

The average annual cost to the employer for a worker with a family who makes $50,000 a year would go from $12,591 to just $3,100.

How Much Will It Cost?

This plan has been estimated to cost $1.38 trillion per year.

How Would It Be Paid For?

* A 6.2 per cent income-based health care premium paid by employers. Revenue raised: $630 billion per year.

* A 2.2 per cent income-based premium paid by households. Revenue raised: $210 billion per year. A family of four taking the standard deduction can have income up to $28,800 and not pay this tax.

Progressive Income Tax Rates

* Revenue raised: $110 billion a year. Under this plan the marginal income tax rate would be:

* 37 per cent on income between $250,000 and $500,000.

* $43 per cent on income between $500,000 and $2 million.

* 48 per cent on income between $2 million and $10 million. (In 2013, only 113,000 households, the top 0.08 per cent of taxpayers, had income between $2 million and $10 million).

*52 per cent on income above $10 million. (In 2013, only 13,000 households, just 0.01 per cent of taxpayers, had income exceeding $10 million).

* Taxing capital gains and dividends the same as income from work. Revenue raised: $92 billion per year. Warren Buffett, the second-wealthiest person in the country, has said that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. The reason is that he receives most of his income from capital gains and dividends, which are taxed at a much lower rate than income from work. This plan will end the special tax break for capital gains and dividends on household income above $250,000.

* Limit tax deductions for the rich. Revenue raised: $15 billion per year. Under this plan, households making over $250,000 would no longer be able to save more than 28 cents in taxes from every dollar in tax deductions. This limit would replace more complicated and less effective limits on tax breaks for the rich, including the alternative minimum tax, the personal exemption phaseout, and the limit on itemised deductions.

* The Responsible Estate Tax. Revenue raised: $21 billion per year. This provision would tax the estates of the wealthiest 0.3 per cent (three-tenths of 1 per cent) of Americans who inherit over $3.5 million at progressive rates and would close loopholes in the estate tax.

* Savings from health tax expenditures. Revenue raised: $310 billion per year. Several tax breaks that subsidise health care (health-related “tax expenditures”) would become obsolete and disappear under a single-payer health care system, saving $310 billion per year.

Most important, health care provided by employers is compensation that is not subject to payroll tax or income taxes under current law. This is a significant tax break that would effectively disappear under this plan, because all Americans would receive health care through the new single-payer, rather than employer-based program.

(pp. 334-8).

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 2

August 8, 2016

The arguments trotted out to support the workfare policies are these.

1. Everyone has a duty to work. Those who take money from the state have a reciprocal obligation to work for the support they have received.

2. Following Moynihan in America, it’s argued that part of the problem of poverty in society is communities, where there are families, which have not worked for generations. In order to break the cycle of poverty, these people must be forced into work.

3. It’s also argued that many individuals have also been unemployed for so long that they, too, have lost the habit of working. These people must also be forced to work.

4. The unemployed are also socially marginalised and excluded. Workfare helps them, its supporters argue, become integrated into society and so become productive members of the community once again.

5. It is also claimed that workfare allows people to acquire new skills. In 2012 a report was published on the exploitation of the people forced to work for free as security guards for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. A spokesman for the ConDem coalition responded to the claim by stating: ‘The work programme is about giving people who have often been out of the workplace for quite some time the chance to develop skills that they need to get a job that is sustainable.’ As Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols sang back in 1977 ‘God save the Queen and the Fascist regime.’

6. Workfare somehow reduces government spending on welfare programmes. Liam Byrne, New Labour’s advocate for workfare, who was quoted in the first part of this article, said ‘The best way to save money is to get people back into work.’

In fact there are serious arguments against just about all of these points, and some of them simply aren’t factually true. Let’s deal with each of these arguments in turn.

The Duty to Work

If people have a duty to perform free work for the goods and services that are provided freely by the state, then the middle classes and the elite should particularly be targeted for workfare, because they use the state infrastructure and its services more than the proles and those at the bottom of society. But the middle and upper classes most definitely are not required to perform these services. Furthermore there are also strong objections to performing workfare for a profit-making company. Those who do so, like those poor souls working free of charge for the big supermarkets like Sainsbury’s, are helping to make these companies even more profitable. It isn’t society that profits from their work, but extremely wealthy individuals like David Sainsbury and his shareholders, and the people running his competitors, for example. This claim also implies that low income people have a duty to work in an inferior position for the benefit of their social or economic superiors in a master-servant relationship. This is a distortion of the concept of duty. The same idea also leads to the view that if you are unsuccessful in the labour market, you therefore have a duty to work for nothing, a view of society that is both regressive – harking back to some of the worst aspects of the Victorian era – an alienating. On the other hand, if you are performing work that is unprofitable, then there should be no duty to perform it. If it is genuine, valuable work, then the people performing it should be paid the current market rate, not simply provided with unemployment relief.

Standing also makes the point that the concept of duty has led to the belief that people should be forced to find work. But the use of coercion is divisive and actually undermines the commitment to work. He also argues that it actually amoral, because it takes away from workers their ability to choose for themselves whether to be moral. Plus the fact that workfare is not levied on the idle rich, or the friends and relatives of the politicians forcing it on others.

Multigenerational Families of the Unemployed

The number of families that actually fit this description is so small as to be negligible, both in America and over here in Blighty. The academics T. Shildrick, R. MacDonald, C. Webster, and K. Garthwaite examined this issue in their Poverty and Insecurity: Life in Low Pay, No Pay Britain (Bristol: Policy Press 2012). Their research revealed that only 1 per cent fitted the description of a family in which two generations were unemployed. Official attempts to find these pockets of intergenerational unemployment have similarly turned up next to zilch. The whole idea is rubbish, but that hasn’t stopped papers like the Daily Fail claiming it’s true.

Getting People out of the Habit of Not Having a Job

Researchers have also looked at this one, too, and guess what? Yup, it’s similarly rubbish. There are very few people like this. But rather than acting as an incentive to find work, actually being forced to work unpaid in poor conditions may actually act as a deterrent.

Integrating the Jobless Back into Society

Far from being calculated to help the long-term unemployed back into society, the type of work that they are forced to do under workfare is humiliating. In many cases, this is quite deliberate as part of the government’s ideology of ‘less eligibility’ and dissuading people from going on benefits. And studies by the researchers and the DWP itself have also found that workfare makes absolutely no difference to whether a claimant gets a job afterwards.

Enabling the Unemployed to Acquire New Skills

This is also rubbish, as the type of menial work people are giving under workfare, in which they sweep the streets or stack shelves, are by their nature unskilled. And if a skilled worker is forced to perform them for months on end, this type of work is actually like to make them lose their skills.

Workfare Cuts Government Spending

This is also rubbish. In fact, workfare increases government expenditure on the unemployed, as the government has to pay subsidies to the firms employing them, and pay the costs of administration, which are actually quite heavy. And the work those on the programme actually perform doesn’t produce much in the way of taxable income, so money doesn’t come back to the government. Furthermore, most of the people on benefits are actually working, which makes Liam Byrne’s statement that the best way to save money is to get people back into work’ a barefaced lie.

Nye Bevan on Solving the Housing Problem

May 14, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece commenting on the increasing shortage of affordable housing due to Margaret Thatcher’s policy of selling off council houses. These have been bought up by private landlords and housing associations, who are charging rents that are unaffordable to many. As a result, the number of evictions has doubled in the past few years. See Mike’s article at

This is how the Thatcherite dream of Britain as a nation of home-owners ends

The Labour Party after the War launched a campaign of house building under Nye Bevan, in order to provide ‘homes fit for heroes’. It was not as successful as it could have been, largely because the high quality of the homes built meant that the numbers actually put up were smaller than were later built under MacMillan, when the quality requirements were relaxed. Nevertheless, it was quite an achievement.

Bevan’s vision for state provision of housing is laid out in the book From Beveridge to Blair: The First Fifty Years of Britain’s Welfare State, by Margaret Jones and Rodney Lowe (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2002). In it, he makes clear that he wishes to provide homes for the poor. At the same time, he does not want to create segregated areas where the poor are separated from the rich, or occupied mainly by retired people. The problem of social exclusion and ‘social cleansing’ of the poor from rich areas has also become acute under the Tories, especially in London where vast areas are now unaffordable to all but the extremely rich, with the consequence that the working and lower middle classes are being pushed out of their traditional neighbourhoods as these too are bought up by the middle classes.

I want to explain … the broad outlines of the Government’s housing policy. Before the war the housing problems of the middle classes were, roughly speaking, solved. The higher income groups had their houses: the lower income groups had not …. We propose to start to solve, first, the housing difficulties of the lower income groups. In other words were propose to lay the main emphasis of our programme upon building houses to let. That means that we shall ask local authorities to be the main instruments for the housing programme … It is … a principle of the first importance that the local authorities must be looked to as the organisation and source for the building of the main bulk of the housing programme …

Each year before the war about 260,000 houses were built for private enterprise alone, for sale, while the local authorities were confined largely to slum clearance schemes. They built about 50,000 houses a year under those schemes … I would like to ask the House to consider the grave civic damage caused by allowing local authorities to build house for only the lower income groups living in their colonies. This segregation of the different income groups is a wholly evil thing, from a civilised point of view … It is a monstrous affliction upon the essential psychological and biological one-ness of the community …

One of the consequences of this segregation was to create a insistence of uniformity … I am going to encourage the housing authorities in their lay-outs to make provision for building some houses also from the higher income groups at higher rents…

I hope that all age groups will be found hospitality in their schemes, and that they will not be segregated. I hope that old people will not be asked to live in colonies of their own – after all they do not want to look out of their windows on an endless processions [sic] of their friends; they also want to look at processions of perambulators….

The main emphasis on the housing programme, will be on the local authorities. I am fully aware there are certain forms of building organisations that may not be available for the public building programme. The local authorities are, therefore, allowed to license private buildings for sale up to a limit of £1,200 in the provinces, and £1,300 in London… These licenses are for the purpose of supplementing the main housing programme, and not for diverting building labour and materials that would otherwise flow into the public housing programmes…

I should like … to warn hon. Members against one aspect of this matter. There is a great deal of money available in this country for investing in house-building… I do not propose… to let this vast mass of accumulated money on a scarcity market, and to encourage people to acquire mortgages that will be gravestones around their necks…

It is not that we ourselves are against people owning their own houses … There is no desire on our part to prevent people owning their own houses…

The Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister … said that this business of housing was going to be treated as a military operation. I entirely agree with him. If you wanted land for an airfield during the war, you did not have protracted negotiations with the landlord. We are going to have no protracted negotiations with the landlord for getting houses… We are going to ask the House to approve a Bill by which land for all public purposes, including housing-will be acquired by all those agencies which have powers of compulsory purchase… If it is agreed, as it is by the House, that land is needed for public purposes, there is no logic in those purposes being frustrated or held up because protracted negotiations have to go on with the owners of the land…

We, on this side of the House, have committed ourselves to no figures… The fact is that if at this moment we attempted to say that, by a certain date, we will be building a certain number of houses that statement would rest upon no firm basis of veracity…

When the materials and labour have been provided to the local authorities, we will provide the local authorities with housing targets…

In conclusion I would say this: I believe that this housing shortage can be solved. (Pp. 159-60)

Sadly, it wasn’t. Squalor and destitution remained. But it was a fair attempt, and far more successful than Thatcher’s policy, which has finally ended with landlordism and an acute housing shortage.

Vox Political: Former Chair BBC Trust Accuses Government of BBC Bias against Labour

May 12, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also reported that a former chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, has said that he believes that the BBC has been under political pressure from the government to be biased against Labour and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Mike writes

The former chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, has admitted what some of us have been saying for years – that political pressure has been exerted on the Corporation to bias its news coverage in favour of the Conservatives and against Labour.

Sir Michael Lyons was chair of the BBC Trust from 2007 to 2011. He spent much of his career in local government, in chief executive posts, but he was also briefly a Labour councillor in the early 1980s.

He said on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One that political pressure was making the BBC biased against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn:

“I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that the BBC has sought to hedge its bets of late. There have been some quite extraordinary attacks on the elected leader of the Labour party, quite extraordinary. I can understand why people are worried about whether some of the most senior editorial voices in the BBC have lost their impartiality on this.”

Mike states that this could apply just to Laura Kuenssberg, who has been the subject of a petition to remove her because of her blatantly overt bias against Corbyn. But the comments could just as well refer to those further up, such as Kuenssberg’s boss, James Harding. He also states that several kites have been flown, by people he believes are close to John Whittingdale.

Naturally, this has been rejected by the Beeb’s head, Tony ‘Head Prefect’ Hall.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/12/political-pressure-making-bbc-biased-against-labourcorbyn-says-former-bbc-trust-chair/

I really don’t take the Beeb’s protestations of impartiality terribly seriously. Not after academics from, I think, Edinburgh University showed that the Beeb was far more biased towards the Tories and business leaders, and was more likely to invite them to speak than Labour or the trade unions. As for Dave Cameron’s cruel and disgraceful austerity programme, Barry and Saville Kushner were moved to write their book, Who Needs the Cuts, because the very people, who should have been challenging the government’s line on austerity, weren’t. That includes BBC broadcasters, who uncritically accepted the government’s assertion that the debt was nearly insurmountable and that savage cuts were needed to bring it down to a manageable level.

Years ago, when the Beeb was under the control of John Birt, the Conservatives were constantly attacking it for being biased against them. They have been particularly annoyed about Jeremy Paxman, whom they regularly accused of bias. These claims seem somewhat risible now that Paxman has admitted being a ‘One Nation’ Tory. Private Eye attacked this claim of Labour influence at the Beeb with a story from one of their readers, who had been shooting in the Scots highlands. A party led by John Birt was also shooting not far away. And after shooting had ended at that location, as well as Birt they saw a whole party of leading Tory politicos, including Peter Lilley, scurry out of the undergrowth.

The Tories regularly accuse the BBC of having a pro-Labour bias, rather in the same way that Accuracy in Media would have Americans believing that the American broadcasters are overwhelmingly liberal with the only exception being the ‘fair and balanced’ Fox News. In fact, you can expect the opposite. The BBC is part of the establishment, and so the most common voice on it is that of the establishment – the upper and upper middle classes, represented politically by the Conservatives. And the BBC probably genuinely believes it’s impartial, because it shares the Tories’ class background, and so considers that their views, or views like them, are really the only views that matter. And so working class and trade unionist political views points are not given the same airtime or consideration, as these are still considered, after a over a century of the Labour party’s existence, as still somewhat outside what the serious classes believe. And so runs the bias, conscious or unconscious, at the heart of the Beeb’s attitude to Labour.

Jeremy Hunt’s Smirk, the Junior Doctors’ Strike and the Privatisation of the NHS

April 28, 2016

A few days ago Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece about how the veteran Labour MP, Dennis Skinner, had told Jeremy Hunt to take the smirk off his face in parliament. I am not surprised Hunt is smirking, as I think he and his masters – David Cameron and George Osborne, really want the junior doctors to go on strike, no matter what they say to the contrary. And it’s disgusting that they should.

It’s all about appearing strong and combative, you see. Maggie gained much of her support by being combative and showing she was ruthlessly ready to crush all opposition. During one industrial dispute – I think it may well have been with the teachers – she privately remarked that there was some leeway to reach an agreement with the teachers. But she didn’t want to take that route, because it would make her look weak and conciliatory. And so she went about, as Roy Hattersley so memorably remarked, ‘like a bargain-basement Boadicea’. It was important for her image, and those of her followers like Norman Tebbitt, to be seen as towering political colossi standing up to the bloated power of the union bully-boys. That’s how they presented themselves during the Winter of Discontent, the Miners’ Strike, and all the other trade disputes, regardless of whether they were right or wrong.

And my guess is that’s what Hunt, Cameron and Osbo hope they can do now. Provoke an industrial dispute, and then pretend that they’re protecting the ordinary, suffering people of Britain from stroppy, overpaid and lazy workers. That’s they way they’ll present it. You only have to look at every report of every strike in the pages of the Scum, the Express, the Torygraph, and the Heil.

And you can see how the Tories hope to sell their privatisation of the NHS. They’ll start with articles in the Scum and the other parts of the Tory press, telling everyone that they’re bring the discipline of private investment, and its greater resources, to the ‘strike-hit’, financially struggling Health Service. Private investment, they will tell us, will mean greater investment and help ease the tax-burden on poor, hard-working people. Which as we’ve seen, really means all the rich multi-millionaire fat cats bankrolling the Tory party, who are currently soiling themselves at the prospect of getting their mitts round the NHS.

And they there’ll be all the advertising by the NHS’ new, private masters. They’ll put adverts on ITV, Channel 4, 5 and the satellite and cable channels, telling everyone how they’ve been providing healthcare for ‘x’ number of years, their hospitals are really wonderful, how you can be seen on the same day. They’ll also, no doubt, start selling discount deals for those ready to pay that little bit more on their private health insurance policy. They might even try to go the populist route by trying to tell the public that they can now have their own little piece of this British institution, if they get their shares in now. Though as they’re doing it by the back door, because of how unpopular it’s going to be, I actually doubt they’ll pursue this approach.

This is how they want to do it, and it’s sickening.

As we’ve seen from all the other privatisations, the results are going to be worse service, longer waiting times, closures, plus a massive increase in disparity in health across the UK. It’s already the case that you can live years longer if you’re a middle class person living in a middle class area. Well, if you’re poor after the privatisation of the health service, and live in a poor area, your healthcare will be correspondingly poor.

Just like it was before the foundation of the NHS.

But Jeremy Hunt can smirk. He and many of the other Tories have investments and connections in private healthcare companies. He’ll make a tidy pack out of the fees they’ll charge for our healthcare.

Boot out Hunt, Cameron and Osborne, and support the junior doctors. Before Hunt kills us. He’s doing his best to make us all heartily sick already.

The Chartists’ Shops to Punish Opposing Shopkeepers

April 25, 2016

I spent this weekend reading up on the Chartists. This was the early 19th century movement, which roughly ran for the decade between 1837 and 1848, which campaigned for the vote for every working man. There were also female Chartist organisations, and some Chartists were so radical as to wish to extend the franchise to women. It had a very mixed membership ideologically. Some were Socialists, others supporters of Free Trade. Some wanted the repeal of the Corn Law, while some were for keeping them. Many were against the New Poor Law and the Workhouses, but some, like Francis Place, supported it. There were Christian Chartists and atheist Chartists. Some, like Richard Oastler, were Tories, others Liberal. It has been regarded as a kind of early Labour party. This view has since been challenged, but certainly the Labour party politicians, who won the 1945 General Election saw themselves very much as part of the same tradition of working class political radicalism, and the contemporary heirs of the Chartists, as well as Tom Paine, the author of the Rights of Man.

Some Chartists believed, like Marx, that ‘the emancipation of the working class should be the task of the working class’, and wished to avoid contaminating the movement with contacts with the middle classes, who they felt would betray them. Nevertheless, the movement did have many middle class supporters, including Anglican priests, Nonconformist ministers, factory masters, and so on. One of the tactics the Chartists used, which I found particularly interesting, was that they opened shops to compete with and punish those shopkeepers that opposed the extension of the franchise to the hoi polloi.

The British working and lower middle classes are again becoming disenfranchised in the 21st century. And some of this is through the tactics used by the rich supermarkets to drive the small shopkeeper out of business, screw their suppliers, and drive down wages for employees. Quite apart from the various businesses that exploit unpaid workers under the ‘workfare’ system.

I think it would be superb if someone could come up with a similar system of shops to compete and punish these businesses, but I’m not sure how it could be done at a time of depression, when 4.7 million of us are in ‘food poverty’, and the trade unions are fighting for survival. The anarchists have tried similarly tactics, and these generally have failed. But perhaps there is a way. If there is, then it’s one I’d like to see pursued.

Vox Political on the Tories and Tata’s Proposed Sale of British Steel

March 31, 2016

One of the big stories in industry this week is Tata’s proposed sell-off of what remains of the British steel industry. Mike makes the point that while David Cameron is spouting about how the government is doing everything it can, their actions speak much louder than words. And their actions say that they aren’t concerned at all.

Cameron himself is on holiday in Lanzarote. The Business Minister, Sajid Javid, who one of the wags in Private Eye’s ‘Lookalikes’ column suggested looks like the Claw from Thunderbirds, was thousands of miles away Downunder appearing at a business banquet. It was left to Anna Soubry, the Small Business minister, to make a plea for more time. By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn was at one of the steelworks in Port Talbot, and issued a demand to Cameron to recall parliament and take steps to protect the British steel industry.

Mike also points out that other countries have taken steps to protect their iron and steel industries, and that during the financial crisis two banks were nationalised. This raises the question why the government isn’t doing the same for the steel industry.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/31/these-images-show-how-labour-is-standing-up-for-steel-while-the-tories-are-standing-idle/

Cameron did fly back from Lanzarote yesterday. However, while Soubry had made a vague suggestion that the steel industry would be renationalised, Javid ruled this out. Mike, however, makes the point that by ruling out nationalisation, Cameron is most definitely not doing everything he can. See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/31/if-cameron-has-ruled-out-nationalising-tata-steel-hes-not-doing-everything-he-can/

Mike has also posted a further article showing how even the usually solid Torygraph has turned against the Conservatives for this. Osborne’s refusal to rescue the British steel industry seems to be to avoid antagonising the Chinese. He has for years resisted the kind of legislation the Americans have passed to prevent the Chinese dumping cheap steel to the destruction of their own domestic industry. It looks very much Osbo is deliberately sacrificing our steel industry in order to stay in favour with the Chinese, and encourage them to keep investing in Britain.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/31/britain-sacrifices-steel-industry-to-curry-favour-with-china/

I’m not surprised by Cameron’s blanket refusal to nationalise the industry. The Tories have been consistently against its nationalisation after it was first done by Clement Atlee’s government. Duncan Sandys, the Minister of Supply, proposed its denationalisation in 1952, claiming that privatisation would restore to the industry ‘independence, initiative and enterprise’ which was not possible under nationalisation. He was opposed by Sir George Strauss in the Labour party, who said that it was ‘indefensible for the control of this industry-on which depends our economy- the fate of townships and the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of employees-to rest in the hands of people with no public responsibility’. It’s a statement that still applies today at Tata’s announcement they want to sell the plant. The iron and steel industry was renationalised by Harold Wilson’s Labour government in 1966. The steel industry itself by that time had recognised the need for reorganisation. Moreover, Labour was in favour of nationalisation because iron and steel was one of the ‘commending heights’ of industry, and so should be occupied by Britain. The Tories started privatising the industry again in the 1980s under Ian MacGregor. Their aim was to cut the cost to the taxpayer, while at the same time they considered that the business of the steel industry should be to make steel, rather than create jobs. Clearly, that attitude has not changed.

The manufacturing industries also suffer from the perception, disseminated by neo-Liberal free-marketeers over the last thirty years, that Britain is now a post-industrial society. Deanne Julius, who was one of the chief wonks in the Bank of England under Blair, took this view, and stated that we should now concentrate on developing the service industries, and leave manufacturing to the rest of the world, and specifically America. This is another idea that Han-Joon Chang shoots down in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. He makes the point that manufacturing industry is still vitally important. It only looks less important than the service industries, because these have expanded far more and more rapidly than manufacturing. But that certainly does not mean that it’s unimportant.

Except to the Tories. Cameron is not going to renationalise the iron and steel industry, because as a neo-lib he’s devoted to the idea that government should not interfere – market forces and all that gibberish – and that if the industry goes under, well, that’s how it should be. Some how the market will magically correct the situation and another industry will somehow arise to replace it. This seems to me to be the fundamental attitude of the followers of von Hayek and the other Libertarians. He also won’t want to nationalise the industry, because it will mean not only a fundamental contradiction of Neo-Liberal economic doctrine, but also because it’ll mean more state expenditure. Which in turn will mean he won’t be able to give more tax cuts to his big business paymasters.

And lastly, he won’t want to nationalise the industry, because the last thing he wants is a rise in employment, and the revival of an organised and powerful working class, as it was when manufacturing was the dominant industry. Milton Friedman’s wretched Monetarism dictates that there should be a six per cent unemployment rate to keep wages low, and labour affordable.

And finally, there is the issue of class. Whatever Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith spout to the contrary, the Tories are not the policy of ‘working people’. They themselves admit as much. When the issue of the union’s funding of the Labour party came up again a few years ago, Labour made the point that the Tories were being funded by business. The Tories attempted to defend themselves by stating that this was perfectly acceptable, as they were the party of business. And in this case, business does not want state involvement in industry and the creation of nasty, old-style working class jobs that might actually empower the working class.

And also part of it is that the working class simply aren’t considered a concern, in the same way that the Tories are concerned about the upper and middle classes. Cameron’s a toff, as is Osbo and Ian Duncan Smith. The people, who matter to them are the same people as themselves – other toffs and members of the upper middle class. Those are the only people they see personally and interact with, except those they employ. And so ordinary people and their concerns simply don’t register with them in the same way as those of their own class.

And so, while Cameron has come back from Lanzarote, because this is a major issue, it’s not one that he really wants to solve by going back to nationalising the industry. Not when Maggie Thatcher and generations of Tories took so much trouble to privatise it.

Nietzsche, Academy Schools, and Elitism in Education

March 30, 2016

Mike and a number of other bloggers have wondered recently if the Tories’ own enthusiasm for privatising education and turning all schools into Academies aren’t a deliberate attempt to ‘dumb down’ education. Despite all the hype, and mendacious graphs in the Torygraph to the contrary, privately run Academies actually perform worse than state schools managed by the local authorities. Mike speculated that the Tories wanted the children of the hoi polloi – the working and lower middle classes – have an inferior education as they were afraid that the masses were becoming too bright, too well-education, and they didn’t want the competition. After all, they could hardly retain their places as the leaders of society, thanks to their extremely moneyed parents sending them to Eton and the other public and fee-paying schools, if a bunch of comprehensive school oiks actually were demonstrably more intelligent and better educated than they were.

And there is certainly some evidence that the latter is true. A year ago, the Independent and the I ran a story that students from state schools actually did better at uni than those from the private schools. How ghastly! Especially as the introduction of tuition fees and their increase to truly extortionate levels really does seem to suggest that there is a section of right-wing opinion that believes higher education should be the exclusive preserve of the wealthy few.

The German philosopher Nietzsche also took this view. He was afraid that if the masses became too well-educated, it would lead to a decline in cultural standards. The historian Gordon A. Craig describes his elitist view of education, and that of his successors in Germany: 1866 – 1945 (Oxford: OUP 1978). He wrote

(A)nd some widely read publicists expressed the view that the emphasis placed on the education of the masses was dangerous because it could not avoid diluting the quality of German education in general. This was the view of Friedrich Nietzsche, who in a remarkable series of lectures, ‘On the Future of our Education Institutions’, delivered in Basle in 1872, stated that ‘not the education of the masses can be our goal but the education of individually selected people, armed for great and permanent achievements’ and went on to charge that those who argued for a further extension of Volksbildung were seeking to destroy ‘the natural order of rank in the kingdom of the intellect’. Nietzsche’s views were repeated with variations by Paul de Lagarde, an embittered eccentric who saw German culture imperilled by the advance of barbarism and blamed this on the educational system, and Julius Langbehn, the author of the extremely popular Rembrandt als Erzieher (1890), whose insistence upon the necessity of training a racially pure elite was later to take more extreme forms in the educational practices of Heinrich Himmler.

De Lagarde and Langbehn were two of the 19th century intellectual precursors of the Nazis. The German elementary schools were called Volksschulen – People’s Schools. The Germans had had an excellent school system of primary education from the 18th century onwards. If children couldn’t go to church schools, then they had to go to state schools. As a result, illiteracy in Germany by the end of the 19th century was very, very low – about 0.05%, compared with 3-4% in England and France.

Nietzsche’s ideas might have been a novelty for Germany, but until comparatively late in the 19th century they were common amongst the British ruling class. There was some education available for the working classes in the Sunday and Dame schools, but these were by no means widespread, and standards could be very poor. The dame schools have been criticised as essentially a place where parents could send their children while they were at work trying to make a living. As a whole, the education system was geared to training an aristocratic elite for careers in government. It looks very much like this is what the Tories intend now in their eagerness to privatise schools and so create an education system that will leave children worse educated, not better.

Cameron, Osbo, Thicky Nikki and the rest of the Tory party are either aristos, or very middle class. It really does look like they are trying to drag Britain back into the 19th century, where the workers were given just enough education to satisfy the requirements of industry, while a good education, and the career opportunities that went with it, were the exclusive prerogative of the middle and upper classes. This was challenged by the Labour party, who wanted the education reformed and expanded so that more people from the lower middle and working classes had the opportunity to acquire it and so enjoy the same career opportunities and social privileges as the wealthy. It can be seen in chapter IX of G.D.H. Cole’s book, Britain in the Post-War World – ‘Education for Democracy’, for example. It’s the reason Anthony Crossland set up and championed comprehensive schools, because the existing system of grammar and secondary modern schools were elitist, and kept the working class in their place in the manual trades.

And so far from striking a blow for meritocracy, it increasingly seems to me that the privatisation of the education system begun nearly thirty years ago by Thatcher really is indeed to keep the masses in their place, and make sure that only the elite can afford an educational standard that will guarantee them their place of leadership in society. All under the guise of delivering quality, which can only be provided by private industry, of course.

Vox Political: Tory School Privatisation will make Standards Worse

March 27, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has a very interesting piece from the BBC. The leaders of the Conservative, Liberal and Labour groups in the Local Government Association have written a joint letter to the Observer, stating their opposition to the government’s plans to turn all schools into academies. The stats actually demonstrate that all academy schools actually perform worse than the schools under state/ local government control. There’s also a graph with the article that demonstrates this.

Mike asks the obvious question of why, if Academy Schools are so poor, are the Tories so keen to convert all our schools into them? Is it because they don’t want an educated, critically-thinking electorate, but indoctrinated drones that will take low-wage jobs because they lack the qualifications for anything else? Or is it because they know that everybody else’s children are more intelligent than they are, and can’t handle the competition?

Mike’s article is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/27/tory-academisation-plan-will-worsen-education-standards/

My guess is that the Tories are keen on privatising our schools for a number of reasons, not excluding those Mike has outlined. They firstly want to privatise them for the economic profit of their paymasters in big business, including one Australian-American media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, who also has an educational arm to his business empire. I think it’s called Aspire, rather than something more suitable, like ‘Despair’.

Secondly, it’s carrying on from Thatcher’s campaign to create a class of schools removed from local authority control. Like Mussolini, Maggie Thatcher is, to the Tory faithful, always right. Anything she does cannot be criticised in any shape or form and is absolutely correct, whatever happens. To quote the old scientist, it is very much a case of where there’s a difference between theory and reality, so much for reality. Thatcher was basing her campaign against state education, and more broadly, teachers, on the popular resentment in the 1970s and ’80s about teachers from the ‘loony Left’ indoctrinating children in state schools, teaching them that gays were equal and making them anti-racist, when they should instead have been teaching them good, hearty Tory values. Remember the clause in her education bill attacking the teaching of homosexual propaganda in school? And I can remember her also delivering a foam-flecked rant to the Tory faithful about how ‘Fabians’ were teaching children ‘anti-racist mathematics’. At the time, there were concerns about the failures of those schools which had adopted ‘progressive’ educational policies. Like one school in inner London, where the teachers decided not to teach, as this would ruin children’s innate creativity. There were also horror stories run in the press about Brent and Lambeth councils, and the bizarre, highly authoritarian attitude they took to education, in which nearly everything was suspected of racism. They were supposed to have altered the old nursery rhyme, ‘Baa, Baa, Black Sheep’, to ‘Baa, Baa, Green Sheep’ to make it less racist. It’s been stated several times since that this was just an urban myth, and that the Sun has admitted it made it up. On the other hand, I’ve met people, who did go to school in those boroughs, who claimed they did have to sing it. So I honestly don’t know. Given the mendacity and racism of the Scum, it wouldn’t surprise me if they had made it up.

Thirdly, there was and is a strong perception that comprehensive education, which was mostly introduced by Labour, but which also had some Tory support, had failed, and that standards had fallen. The older generation in particular looked back to the grammar schools with nostalgia as institutions where standards were much higher. It looked very much like Thatcher was using this nostalgia to try and reintroduce them, albeit in a slightly different, updated form. In actual fact, the Labour party under Crossland had decided to introduce comprehensive schools because the grammar schools were elitist. Very few working-class children were sent there. Instead, they were considered more suited to the secondary moderns, where they would be taught a manual trade. Grammar schools were reserved for those set on clerical careers and the like, and so were very much bastions of the middle classes.

There were immense problems with some of the comprehensives. Some of them were too large, too underfunded, and hampered with the kind of teaching staff that have become stereotypical amongst the Right. Hartcliffe, one of the comprehensive schools in my part of Bristol, had an unenviable reputation for poor academic performance, and chronic theft and bullying amongst its pupils. It has changed greatly since then. It’s been divided into two buildings, rather than a single huge one, and standards have risen markedly in the past few decades with a change of headmasters.

My guess is that the changes that occurred to Hartcliffe, have also been common amongst failing schools throughout the country. Standards in state education have risen. But this counts for nothing, as the Tory Right is ideologically opposed to state education. Tory toffs like Cameron, Gove, Osborne and Thicky Nikki seem to look back for their view of a good education system to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when schools, or at least, the grammar schools, were largely private, and the proles were given just enough education to allow them to get a job once they left school, which was at 12, then 14. Changes in industry mean that you now need a more educated, technically proficient workforce, and so they can’t get away with sending children that you out to work. So the higher education sector has expanded, but the Tories would like that to be the nearly exclusive province of the monied classes, and so have raised tuition fees to exorbitant heights after they were introduced by Bliar.

And so contemporary schoolchildren are going to suffer because of a political orthodoxy that started with Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s, and has continued through a mixture of greed and ideological inertia. Oh yes, and the Goebbels-like determination to keep pushing a good lie if it gets you votes.