Posts Tagged ‘Milovan Djilas’

My Unpublished Book Arguing for Worker’s Chamber in Parliament

November 21, 2017

I’ve begun compiling a list of articles on the various coups and other methods the US and the other western countries have used to overthrow, destabilise or remove awkward governments and politicians around the world, when those nations have been seen as obstructions to the goals of western, and particularly American, imperialism and corporate interests. ‘Florence’, one of the great commenters on this blog, suggested that I should write a book on the subject, to which she can point people. She’s worried that too few people now, including those on the left, are aware of the struggle against dictators like General Pinochet and the other butchers in the Developing World, who were set up by us and the Americans as part of the Cold War campaign against Communism. Many of the regimes they overthrew weren’t actually Communist or even necessarily socialist. But they were all reforming administrations, whose changes threatened the power and profits of the big American corporations. Or else they were otherwise considered too soft on the Communist threat. So, I’m compiling a list of the various articles I’ve written on this subject, ready to select some of the best or most pertinent and edit them into book form.

A year or so ago I got so sick of the way parliament was dominated by the very rich, who seem to pass legislation only to benefit themselves rather than the poor, that I wrote a pamphlet, For A Workers’ Chamber. This argued that what was needed to correct this, and really empower working people, was a separate chamber in parliament directly elected by working people themselves. I’ve tried submitting it to various publishers, but so far those I’ve approached have turned it down.

Here’s a brief summary of the pamphlet and its arguments.

For A Workers’ Chamber is a short work of 22, 551 words, arguing that a special representative chamber composed by representatives of the working class, elected by the working class, is necessary to counter the domination of parliament by millionaires and the heads of industries. These have pushed through legislation exclusively benefiting their class against the best interests of working people. It is only by placing working people back into parliament that this can be halted and reversed.

The pamphlet traces the idea of workers’ political autonomy from Robert Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trade Union, Anarchism, Syndicalism and Guild Socialism, the workers’, socialists and peasant councils in Revolutionary Russia, and Germany and Austria during the 1919 Raeterevolution. It also discusses the emergence corporatist systems of government from the Utopian Socialism Saint-Simon in the 19th century onwards. After Saint-Simon, corporativism next became a much vaunted element in the constitution of Fascist Italy in the 20th century. This merged trade unions into industrial corporations dominated by management and big business in order to control them. This destroyed workers autonomy and reduced them to the instruments of the Fascist state and business class. It also discusses the development of liberal forms of corporatism, which emerged in Britain during and after the First and Second World War. These also promised to give working people a voice in industrial management alongside government and management. However, it also resulted in the drafting of increasingly authoritarian legislation by both the Labour party and the Conservatives to curb trade union power and industrial discontent. It also examines the system of workers’ control and producers’ chambers, which formed the basis of the self-management system erected by Edvard Kardelj and Milovan Djilas in Tito’s Yugoslavia. It also recommends the part-nationalisation of those companies seeking to perform the functions of state agencies through government outsourcing, or which seek to influence government policy through the election of the directors and senior management to parliament as a way of curtailing their influence and subordinating them to the state and the wishes of the British electorate.

The book examines the class basis of parliamentary democracy as it emerged in Britain, and the Marxist critique of the state in the writings of Marx and Engels themselves and Lenin during the Russian Revolution, including those of non-Bolshevik, European Social Democrats, like Karl Kautsky, who rejected the need for institutional workers’ power in favour of universal suffrage. It also critically analyzes Tony Crosland’s arguments against nationalisation and workers’ control. The book does not argue that parliamentary democracy should be abandoned, but that a workers’ chamber should be added to it to make it more representative. The final chapter examines the possible advantages and disadvantages of such a system, and the problems that must be avoided in the creation of such a chamber.

I’m considering publishing the pamphlet myself in some form or other, possibly with Lulu. In the meantime, if anyone’s interested in reading a bit of it, please leave a comment below and I’ll send you a sample chapter.

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Fabian Pamphlet on the Future of Industrial Democracy : Part 1

November 11, 2017

The Future of Industrial Democracy, by William McCarthy (London: Fabian Society 1988).

A few days ago I put up a piece about a Fabian Society pamphlet on Workers’ Control in Yugoslavia, by Frederick Singleton and Anthony Topham. This discussed the system of workers’ self-management of industry introduced by Tito in Communist Yugoslavia, based on the idea of Edvard Kardelj and Milovan Djilas, and what lessons could be learnt from it for industrial democracy in Britain.

William McCarthy, the author of the above pamphlet, was a fellow of Nuffield College and lecturer in industrial relations at Oxford University. From 1979 onwards he was the Labour party spokesman on employment in the House of Lords. He was the author of another Fabian pamphlet, Freedom at Work: towards the reform of Tory employment law.

The pamphlet followed the Bullock report advocating the election of workers to the management board, critiquing it and advocating that the system should be extended to firms employing fewer than the thousands of employees that were the subject of reforms suggested by Bullock. The blurb for the pamphlet on the back page runs

The notion of industrial democracy – the involvement of employees in managerial decisions – has been around at least since the time of the Guild Socialists. However, there has been little new thinking on the subject since the Bullock Committee reported in the 1970s. This pamphlet redresses this by re-examining the Bullock proposals and looking at the experience of other European countries.

William McCarthy outlines the three main arguments for industrial democracy:
* it improves business efficiency and performance;
* most workers want a greater say in their work environment;
* a political democracy which is not accompanied by some form of industrial power sharing is incomplete and potentially unstable.

He believes, however, that the emphasis should no longer be on putting “workers in the boardroom.” Instead, he argues that workers ought to be involved below the level of the board, through elected joint councils at both plant and enterprise levels. These councils would have the right to be informed about a wide range of subjects such as on redundancies and closures. Management would also be obliged to provide worker representatives with a full picture of the economic and financial position of the firm.

William McCarthy argues that Bullock’s plan to limit worker directors to unionised firms with over 2,000 workers is out of date. it would exclude over two thirds of the work force and would apply only to a steadily shrinking and increasingly atypical fraction of the total labour force. As the aim should be to cover the widest possible number, he advocates the setting up of the joint councils in all private and public companies, unionised or otherwise, that employ more than 500 workers.

In all cases a majority of the work force would need to vote in favour of a joint council. This vote would be binding on the employer and suitable sanctions would be available to ensure enforcement.

Finally, he believes that this frame of industrial democracy would allow unions an opportunity to challenge their negative and reactionary image and would demonstrate the contribution to better industrial relations and greater economic efficiency which can be made by an alliance between management, workers and unions.

The contents consist of an introduction, with a section of statutory rights, and then the following chapters.

1: The Objectives of Industrial Democracy, with sections on syndicalism, Job Satisfaction and Economic and Social Benefits;

2: Powers and Functions, with sections on information, consultation, areas of joint decision, union objection, and co-determination;

3: Composition and Principles of Representation, with sections on selectivity, the European experience, ideas and legal framework.

Chapter 4: is a summary and conclusion.

The section on Syndicalism gives a brief history of the idea of industrial democracy in Britain from the 17th century Diggers during the British Civil War onwards. It says

The first of these [arguments for industrial democracy – employee rights] is as old as socialism. During the seventeenth century, Winstanley and the Diggers advocated the abolition of landlords and a system of production based on the common ownership of land. During the first half o the 19th century, Marx developed his doctrine that the capitalist system both exploited and “alienated” the industrial workers, subjecting them to the domination of the bourgeoisie who owned the means of production. Under capitalism, said Marx, workers lost all control over the product of their labour and “work became a means to an end, rather than an end to itself” (see Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx, R. Tucker, Cambridge University Press, 1961). During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Sorel and his followers developed the notion of “revolutionary syndicalism” – a form of socialism under which the workers, rather than the state, would take over the productive resources of industry. Syndicalists were influential in Europe and America in the years before the First World War. They advocated industrial action, rather than the use of the ballot box, as a means of advancing to socialism (see The Wobblies, P. Renshaw, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1967).

In Britain, syndicalism came to adopt a more constitutionalist form with the formation of the guild socialists. They did not reject the use of parliamentary action, but argued that a political democracy which was not accompanied by some form of industrial power sharing was incomplete and potentially unstable. This was the basic argument of their most distinguished theoretician, G.D.H. Cole. In more recent times a trenchant restatement of this point of view can be found in Carole Pateman’s Participation and Democratic Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970).

In his earliest writing Cole went as far as to argue that socialism required that that “the workers must election and control their managers”. As he put it “In politics, we do not call democratic a system in which the proletatiat has the right to organise and exercise what pressure it can on an irresponsible body of rulers: we call it a modified aristocracy; and the same name adequately describes a similar industrial structure” (The World of Labour,Bell, 1913).

Subsequently Cole came to feel that continued existence of a private sector, plus the growth of collective bargaining, required some modification of the syndicalist doctrine behind Guild Socialism. By 1957, he was arguing for workers to be given “a partnership status in private firms, “sharing decisions” with the appropriate level of management C The Case for Industrial Partnership, MacMillan, 1957. This is very much the position advanced by Carole Pateman after her critique of more limited theories of democracy-eg those advanced by Schumpeter and others. These “minimalist” democrats took the view that in the context of the modern state, the most one could demand of a democracy was that it should provide a periodic electoral contest between two competing political elites. After reviewing examples of industrial democracy at work in a number of countries Pateman concluded “…it becomes clear that neither the demands for more participation, not the theory of participatory democracy itself, are based, as is so frequently claimed, on dangerous illusions or on an outmoded and unrealistic theoretical foundation. We can still have a modern, viable theory of democracy which retains the notion of participation at its heart.” (op. cit.)

Continued in Part 2, which will cover the sections on the pamphlet ‘Ideas’ and ‘Legal Framework’.

Fabian Pamphlet on Workers’ Control in Yugoslavia: Part 1

November 7, 2017

I’ve put up several pieces about workers’ control and industrial democracy, the system in which the workers in a particular firm or industry have their representatives elected on to the board of management. It was particularly highly developed in Communist Yugoslavia, following the ideas of Milovan Djilas and Edvard Kardelj, and formed an integral part of that country’s independent Communist system following the break with Stalin and the Soviet-dominated Comintern in 1948.

In 1963 the Fabian Society published the above pamphlet by Frederick Singleton, a lecturer on Geography and International Affairs in the Department of Industrial Administration at the Bradford Institute of Technology, and Anthony Topham, a staff tutor in Social Studies in the Adult Education department of Hull University.

The pamphlet had the following contents.

Chapter 1 was on Political Structure, and contained sections on the Communist Assumption of Power, the 1946 Constitution, the 1953 Constitution, and the Policy of the League of Communists.

Chapter 2: Economic Planning, had sections on the Legacy of the Past, From Administration to Fiscal Planning, Autonomy for the Enterprise, the Investment System, and Recent Developments.

Chapter: The Working Collective, has sections on the Workers’ Council, the Managing Board, the Director, Departmental Councils, Economic Units, the Disposal of Funds by Economic Units, Allocation of Personal Income, Structure and Role of the Trade Unions, the Right to Strike, Education for Workers’ Self-Management, Workers’ Universities, Worker’s Management in Action: Decision Making, Structure of a Multi-Plant Enterprise, and Incentives or Democracy: the Problem of Motive.

The final chapter, was the Conclusion, which considered the lessons the system had for Britain. It ran:

In considering the lessons which British socialists may draw from the Yugoslav experience, we must not lose sight of the different nature of our two societies and the disparity in levels of industrial development. But it is also relevant to ask how far the ideas of workers’ control could, with the stimulus of the Yugoslav experience, become a truly popular element of British Labour policy. It is true that, with the Yugoslav exception, past experience of this form of Socialism has been inconclusive and fragmentary. Usually, it has been associated with periods of revolutionary fervour such as the Paris Commune of 1871, the Catalan movement during the Spanish Civil War, and the factory Soviets of Russia in 1917-18. The experience of Owenite Utopian communities in this and other countries is misleading, in that they existed as small and vulnerable enclaves in a basically hostile society. On the other hand, there is an authentic tradition within the British Labour movement, represented by the early shop stewards’ movement, the Guild Socialists and Industrial Unionists, upon which we can draw. The Fabian tradition too, is not exclusively centralist or bureaucratic. In the 1888 volume of Fabian essays, Annie Besant raised the question of decentralisation. She did not believe that ‘the direct election of the manager and foreman by the employees would be found to work well’, but she advocated control of industry ‘through communal councils, which will appoint committees to superintend the various branches of industry. These committees will engage the necessary managers and foremen for each shop and factory.’ The importance attached to municipal ownership and control in early Fabian writings is related to the idea of the Commune, in the government of which the workers have a dual representation as consumer-citizens and as producers. This affinity to Yugoslav Commune government is even more marked in the constitutions evolved in Guild Socialist writings.

The history of the progressive abandonment of these aims, and the adoption of the non-representative Public Corporation as the standard form for British Socialised undertakings, is well known. Joint consultation, which was made compulsory in all nationalised industries, became the only instrument of workers’ participation. Yet the problem of democracy in industry is one which should be of great concern to the British socialist. It must surely be apparent that the nationalised industries have failed to create amongst the mass of their workers a feeling of personal and group responsibility. Even in the most ‘trouble-free’ gas and electricity industries, there is little real enthusiasm for the present system of worker-management relations. Nationalisation may have appeared to the Labour government to have solved the problems of the industries concerned. But the experience of the workers in these industries has not confirmed this. They found that joint consultation between managers and unions leaders plus vaguely defined parliamentary control did not create anything resembling industrial democracy. Had it done so, there would have been much stronger popular resistance to the anti-nationalisation propaganda which was so successful in the years preceding the 1959 election.

We therefore feel that the basic aim of the Yugoslavs is one which has validity for our own situation, and we conclude with some observations on the British situation suggested by an acquaintance with the Yugoslav system.

The Problem of Scale

The forms of economic organisation and management which have been evolved by the Yugoslavs are unique, and a study of them provides a valuable stimulus to those who seek ‘a real understanding of a scheme of workers’ control that is sufficiently comprehensive to operate over an entire industry, from top to bottom, and through the whole range of activities’. However, as the scale of production grows, the problem of ensuring that democratic control extends beyond primary groups such as Economic Units through the intermediate levels to the central management of the firm and the industry, becomes more and more difficult. There is a strong body of opinion which believes that schemes of workers’ control must ultimately founder in the context of modern large-scale production. The small, multi-firm industries of the Yugoslav economy make democratic control less difficult than in a highly developed industrial society such as our own.

But questions, which should be asked in relation to our own economy are: how far could the nationalised industries be broken down into the smaller, competing units, without serious loss of efficiency? How far is the growth in the average size of firm (as opposed to scale of production units) the outcome of purely commercial and power considerations, rather than concern for increased efficiency through economies of scale? How far have we been misled by the mystique of managerial skill into accepting the necessity of autocratic control by the managers in both private and public industries? After all, the principle of lay control over salaried experts is the normal and accepted principle in national and local government, and within the Co-operative movement. The decisions in these fields are no less complex and ‘technical’ than in industry. Where lay control in local Councils and Co-operative Management Boards is more apparent than real, how far is this due to the prevailing faith in technology, which makes us reluctant to transform the contribution of the elected representatives by a thorough and enthusiastic education programme of the kind found in the Yugoslav Workers’ Universities?

In the conditions of modern industry, decisions taken by line managers and directors are frequently a matter of choosing between alternative course the consequences of which have been calculated by technical staffs. Such decisions are of a social and political, rather than a technical nature, i.e. they are precisely the sort of decisions which should be undertaken by democratic bodies. These factors should be borne in mind when examining the conclusions of some writers that, whilst the Yugoslav experience is interesting, and may have relevance for countries at a similar stage of industrialisation, it has little bearing on the problems of advanced industries societies.

Continued in Part 2.

Fabian Pamphlet on Workers’ Control in Yugoslavia: Part 2

November 7, 2017

Continued from Part 1.

The Role of the Trade Unions

It is usually assumed that in a capitalist economy the Trade Union movement fulfills a different and essentially more democratic role than the unions in a country such as Yugoslavia. It is said that by remaining independent of management and government the unions provide the essential element in any democracy, that of opposition. This has always been one of the stumbling blocks which any advocate of workers’ control must encounter. An understanding of the role of our own trade union movement is a necessary first step towards working out a programme for democratising industry which does not fall foul of this traditional objection. This understanding may be furthered by an appreciation of the position of trade unions in other countries where social systems are different. In Britain it may well be that the trade unions become more and more committed to the status quo in industry, so their opposition function is weakened. The respect for national collective agreements, the support of the leadership for the current productivity drive, the discouragement of unofficial strike action, the rejection of co-ordinated industrial action to break the pay pause, and finally the decision to join the NEDC suggest that the unions are moving towards the position of partners in a managerial society.

The simple distinction between free trade unionism in a capitalist society, and trade unions in a communist state which become organs for the implementation of state policy, becomes increasingly blurred. We should think instead of a spectrum of relative degrees of independence from the state, ranging from the Russian trade unions at one extreme, through Yugoslav, Scandinavian and Dutch, to the British and American movements at the other, with perhaps the Communist Unions of France and Italy as the least committed to the state. The recognition of this trend does not imply advocacy of a general strike mentality over the pay pause, for example, but we need a more honest recognition of what is taking place. We should admit first that it is inevitable that the trade unions will move in the direction of close co-operation with government, and towards a ‘national interest’ point of view. As this trend continues, the worker is faced with the growing prospect of an alliance between government, employers and unions. In this situation union leaders no longer express the independent sectional and industrial aspirations of their members. Partly because of this, the role of the voluntary rank and file element in trade union government appears to be diminishing and its functions are being superseded by paid officials. The unions are becoming agencies run for their members and not by them.

With the weakening of the elements of opposition and participation there is a need to seek alternative means by which employees can express themselves in the government of industry. This need arises not only from a consideration of industrial democracy, but also of industrial efficiency. Appeals for increased industrial production, such as British Productivity Year, evoke slight response because they are based on an assumption of team spirit and equal partnership which is excluded by the very nature of social relationships in a private enterprise economy. Yugoslav experience strongly suggests that increased productivity is one of the results of their form of industrial democracy. However if democratisation in industry is advocated solely on grounds of higher productivity, it will be received with suspicion. The question would not be how much power and control can we give to democratic forms of management, but rather how small a concession will be necessary in the interests of productivity. Such a path would reproduce the history of progressive disillusion which has befallen Joint Consultation. Thus the idealist exponent of workers’ control may claim to solve must fully the economic problem of incentive.

In Britain, advocates of workers’ control have traditionally thought in terms of Trade Union management of industry. Efforts in this direction have always ended in a blind alley, since the objection that this involves a dual loyalty for the union is a valid one. As we have seen, the Yugoslav system does not involve Trade Unions in the direct management of the Enterprise. It suggests not only a new role for the Unions, but also the practical constitutional forms for the management of the firm by its employees.

The role of the unions in such a system is that of a mass social institution representing the wider national interests of the workers and tackling problems such as the overall levels of incomes and income structure, labour productivity etc. As we have suggested, there is already a tendency for British unions to assume such a role, and the doubts which we have raised about the desirability of this trend would be dispelled if the unions were operating within the framework of an industrial democracy. If workers had legally guaranteed rights of management then the need for the union to be an instrument of opposition is weakened. However, unions could still continue to protect the interests of their members by taking up grievances on behalf of groups and individuals who are in dispute with the elected management bodies. They should certainly seek to influence the decisions and activities of management bodies, but should not be tied to them in an institutional sense.

Workers Democracy in Britain

In considering the relevance of the Yugoslav model to British conditions, two objections may arise. The First concerns the compatibility of Industrial democracy and the private ownership of industry. Does it not challenge the very origins of power which are possessed by the managers of private enterprise firms? Is it not desirable for the Labour movement to give much closer attention to the possibility of introducing experimental forms of workers’ control within existing nationalised industry. This would demonstrate the practicability of the method and point a way to the fully democratic society at which the socialist movement aims.

The second objection is more difficult to counter. Yugoslavia is a one party state. is it likely that in a multi-party state, industrial democracy could be introduced with any guarantee of its permanence? Would not the anti-socialist forces exert such pressure that the system was undermined whilst it was being introduced, and abolished at the first opportunity presented by the return of a Conservative government? It is probably true in Yugoslavia that the permission of opposition views and organisations could generate counter-revolutionary forces which would seriously retard the evolution of the system. The government and the Party clearly fear this. Thus after flirting with Djilas’ heresies, which included the advocacy of a second – though socialist – party, the leadership decided against taking the risk. This is the point at which Yugoslav experience ceases to be helpful to us.

We should not therefore assume that the introduction of industrial democracy in the British context is impracticable. There are signs that unease concerning status at work has penetrated through to the political arena. Liberal party references to ‘syndicalism’ and the long-awaited Conservative Industrial Charter are manifestations of this. These schemes relate to the improvement of the position of workers within the present hierarchical framework, and do not tackle the root of the problem. We would expect that the early demonstration of the viability of a system of democratic control within the nationalised industries would generate enthusiasm for the idea and lead to demands for its extension. The British political system certainly restricts the speed of change, but a change which has become truly popular is difficult to reverse (e.g. The National Health Service). We believe that the Labour Party could, by taking the first steps towards democracy within nationalised industry, transform what has been an electoral embarrassment and a millstone into its biggest asset.

See Part 3 for my own conclusions.

Paul Mason: Elite About to Go Tinfoil over Momentum

September 20, 2016

Paul Mason on Saturday posted a long, but excellent piece discussing the way the elite were changing their tactics from attacking Jeremy Corbyn, to attacking his support group, Momentum. This followed the appearance of an article in the Times about the group’s supposedly dodgy activities in Liverpool, based on an anonymous dossier put together from a Labour member, who had visited their chatrooms. He quotes right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes and the Time’s editorial about how Momentum are really cuckoos in Labour’s metaphorical nest, seeking to infiltrate and take over the party. Mason points out that two other films are also scheduled to attack Corbyn and Momentum this week, and notes the way the story being peddled by the Blairites and the elite has changed. Whereas before it was just Corbyn and a few members of Momentum who were infiltrators, with Smudger demanding the right to address their rallies alongside Corbyn, in a speech last week Smudger equated Momentum with Militant Tendency in the 1980s, and almost suggested that Momentum should similarly be thrown out of the party as Militant was.

Mason points out how ridiculous the comparison is, and compares the open and democratic structure of Momentum with both Militant and the Blairite successor group, Saving Labour. He writes

With 18,000 members Momentum is four times bigger than the Militant Tendency ever was, even at the height of its influence in the mid-1980s. Momentum is organising The World Transformed — an open, free, largely unstructured culture and ideas festival alongside Labour conference in Liverpool as a way of attracting non-party activists and local young people. The organisers have arranged open press access and gained sponsorship from two Labour-affiliated unions and a major NGO. Indeed until last week their main problem was convincing the press to cover it.

Militant, by contrast, was a rigid grouping, with two layers of secrecy, an internal command/control structure and an elected leadership along Bolshevik lines. It operated like this because that is how the Labour right operated. It was in some ways a mirror image of the bureaucratic hierarchy it tried to oppose.

Today, that is still how the Labour right organises: Saving Labour, for example, is a website co-ordinating attacks on Corbyn which has still not reveal who funds it or owns it. Labour Tomorrow is collecting funds from rich donors for purposes as yet unannounced. It has no publicly accountable structures at all. Momentum, by contrast, is an open and democratic group.

Mason states that the intention behind these stories is to begin a witch hunt against Momentum if Corbyn loses. If, on the other hand, he wins, it’s to form the basis of the Blairite’s legal campaign to gain the party’s name, bank account and premises on the basis that these had been illegally stolen by infiltrators. He notes also that these attacks on Momentum itself are based on the failure of the attempts to uncover dirt and smear Corbyn himself. Corbyn is popular with the party’s grassroots and his views poll well with the public.

Mason feels the solution would be to make Momentum and Progress, their Blairite opponents, affiliated sections of the Labour party so that their members become Labour members, and are subject to Labour party rules. But this would need a change in the party’s regulations. He is happy to see anyone become a member of Momentum, though, provided they don’t campaign for rival parties like the TUSC, the Greens and SNP. But Mason also believes that Labour members also need to join Greens, Left nationalists, anti-political people and even Lib Dems in grassroots campaigns on issues like Grammar schools. He also makes the point that the reason why Momentum grew so rapidly after Corbyn was in reaction to the dull, hierarchical and very bureaucratic structure of the existing party, and particularly hostility by the Blairites.

He goes on to make the following recommendations on what the party needs to do to attack the government and counter its policies:

•to de-select the (hopefully few) MPs who insist on actively sabotaging and abusing Corbyn;
•to bring forward a new “A-list” of candidates — more representative of the class, gender, ethnic and sexual-orientation of the UK population than the present PLP;
•passing coherent radical policies Labour Conference 2017 and the next National Policy Forum;
•deepening the left’s majority on the NEC and reversing the purge;
•focusing activist resources into geographical areas where the official party is weak;
•and turning Labour’s regional structures from anti-left “enforcement” operations into local networks of co-ordination to fight the Conservatives.

Mason states that Social Democrats in the Labour party should defend it as one of the remaining elements of the party’s Left wing, going back to the Clarion newspaper in the 1920s. And he also makes this point that it can be seen that it is not a far left movement can be seen from the fact that the true far left parties don’t like it:

And one of the clearest indicators that Momentum is a genuine, democratic formation is that the surviving far left — the SWP and Socialist Party–stand separate from it and their leaderships are wary of it. This suits me — because I have no sympathy for the bureacratic and hierarchical culture of Bolshevik re-enactment groups; it is precisely the open-ness, cultural diversity and networked outlook of Momentum, and the generation of youth drawn to it, that terrifies them.

He further argues that Social Democrats should support it, even if they disagree with its policies, as it has prevented the Labour party from undergoing a process similar to the collapse of PASOK in Greece, where the party has been ‘hollowed out’ and replaced by a party of the far left.

He concludes

The bottom line is: Momentum has a right to exist within the Labour Party and its members have a right to be heard.

If you’re a member of it, the best way to survive the upcoming red scare will be to smile your way through it. This is the tinfoil hat moment of the Labour right, as it realises half a million people cannot be bought by the money of a supermarket millionaire.

So get out the popcorn. You’re about to see what happens to the neo-liberal wing of Labour — and its propaganda arm — when the workers, the poor and the young get a say in politics.

In modern parlance: they are about to lose their shit.

See: https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/elite-goes-tinfoil-over-momentum-dd544c9d8f1c#.fwtj82i9m

I think Mr Mason’s exactly right about all this. He is certainly is about the highly centralised, and rigidly hierarchical nature of the real parties of the Far Left – the Communists and Trotskyites. Parties like these, such as the SWP and the Socialist Party, have a very un-democratic party structure based around Lenin’s doctrine of ‘Democratic Centralism’. In order to prevent the party splitting up into various competing factions, Lenin stipulated that the party must be organised around the leadership of committed revolutionaries, who would be responsible for laying down policy. These could be questioned up to a point, but the moment the leadership took a decision, further debate was outlawed and absolute obedience demanded from the members. There is also a very rigid attitude to party doctrine. Only the leaders’ view of Marxist ideology is considered authentic and conforming to objective reality. Any opposition to it is labelled a ‘deviation’ and its supporters purged, very much like heretics from a religious group. Stalin clawed his way to power by fighting a series of campaigns against his opponents in the party, who were labelled ‘deviationists’ of the Left and Right. When Tito in Yugoslavia decided he wanted to purge Milovan Djilas, one of the architects of workers’ control, he accused him of ‘anarcho-syndicalist deviationism’.

Momentum doesn’t have that mindset, but the Blairites – Progress, Tomorrow’s Labour and Saving Labour, certainly do.

As for the opaque nature of Saving Labour’s funding, my guess is that much of it comes from big business and the Israel lobby. This isn’t an anti-Semitic smear. Blair was funded by the Zionists through Lord Levy and David Sainsbury. It’s because the Zionist lobby is massively losing support through the BDS movement, which is also supported by many Jews fed up with Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians, that the Zionists in the Labour party have accused Corbyn and his supporters of anti-Semitism. My guess is that Saving Labour won’t reveal who funds them because it would show their opponents to be right about their connection to the rich and to the Israel lobby.

Vox Political on Blairite Entryism

August 17, 2016

Yesterday, Mike also put up a piece from Medium entitled ‘Blairite Entryism’. This was about an email from three councillors for Oval Ward in Lambeth, Jack Hopkins, Jane Edbrooke and Claire Holland, appealing for people to join the Labour party so they could vote out Jeremy Corbyn. They made the usual noises about Corbyn and his supporters being unsuitable for government, stated that as well as trying to tackle inequality and protecting the most vulnerable, they were also active running basic council services, and threatened that if Corbyn was elected, it would mean the disappearance of many present Labour councillors. The email was sent to everyone, including Lib Dems and Conservatives. It was specifically targeted at the members of other parties, who were not Labour voters, to join simply to get rid of Corbyn.

Mike asks the question why Tom Watson, if he is so frightened by Left-wing entryism into the Labour party, isn’t also denouncing this Right-wing entryism, and demanding that they be duly punished in the same way as all the Trotskyites he imagines are out there.

Of course Watson won’t. Part of Tony Blair’s strategy to appeal to the right was to recruit Conservatives into the Labour party and the government. Those who switched sides were parachuted into safe Labour seats, often at the expense of the popular, Labour candidate for those areas. When it came to government officials, Blair decided that his was a Government Of All the Talents, and included even present members of the Tory party. This included Chris Patten, the former governor of Hong Kong. It was noted by Blair’s critics that he was far more comfortable with these Tories than he was with traditional Labour party members.

As for the long paranoia and fear about left-wing entryism into the Labour party, this has been around since the 1920s. Labour were concerned about possible Communist party infiltration, and so passed a resolution to remove members of the extreme left. The official stance of the Labour party is opposition to the class war, which is one of the major planks of Communist ideology. There is a problem in that under Stalin, the Comintern did have a policy of turning western Communist parties into carbon copies of the Soviet Communist party, and using them to further specific Russian foreign policy goals rather than those favouring their own nations. One of the reasons Communist Yugoslavia split from the Soviet bloc and aligned with NATO instead was because Stalin tried this effect takeover of their nation through the international Communist organisation. Milovan Djilas, the dissident Marxist writer and one of the architects of the system of worker’s control in the former Yugoslavia, described this process in his autobiography, Rise and Fall. For example, the official Communist international line demanded that the press in the satellite countries printed stories mainly about Russia, to the exclusions of articles about the satellite nations itself. And the way Stalin took over and the nations liberated by the Soviet Union during the Second World War into Communist states under the sway of the Soviet Union was by infiltrating, amalgamating and purging the local Socialist and opposition parties. For example, in East Germany the Social Democrats were, against their wishes, forcibly amalgamated with the Communist party. The leading Social Democrat politicians were then purged, and the majority Social Democrats then reformed as a Communist party, along the way turning their country into a Communist state. This didn’t just happen to Socialist parties. It also happened to non-Socialist parties, which occupied the leading left-wing position, such as the Peasant’s Party in Hungary.

There were also attempts to take over the trade unions through the Soviet trade union organisation. It’s why Ernest Bevin, the veteran trade unionist and Labour politician, hated Communism.

And it wasn’t just the Communists, who tried these antics. The Socialist Workers’ Party, which is the country’s main Trotskyite organisation, was notorious for trying to infiltrate other left-wing groups and campaigns in order to turn them into its front organisations. The ‘Rock Against Racism’ movement fell apart in the 1980s after they gained a majority on its leading committee. The campaign then declared it was working in concert with the Socialist Workers. The majority of its members, who weren’t interested in Trotskyism but simply wanted to listen to rockin’ bands while saving the country from the NF and the rest of the Fascists, voted with their feet and left.

Other extreme left-wing organisations adopt the same tactics. In the early 1990s a group of anarchist troublemakers tried to infiltrate a re-enactment group of which I was part. They left en masse after they were caught discussing their plans to take control of it.

Much of the fear of left-wing entryism into the Labour party and the trade unions was also stoked by the Americans as part of the Cold War. Robin Ramsay and Lobster have published a number of articles describing and criticising the process by which the American and British intelligence agencies sponsored various working class movement and organisations to combat possible Soviet influence. The Blairite hysteria here over Corbynite ‘Trotskyites’ is part of this pattern, as Blair and the other leading members of New Labour were sponsored by the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, a Reaganite project to influence the coming generation of politicians in favour of the Atlantic alliance and American interests.

All this hysteria ignores the fact that Jeremy Corbyn isn’t a Trot, and neither are his followers. They’re traditional old Labour. But this is too much for the New Labour capitalists, who get the vapours every time somebody mentions traditional, old Labour values, like working for the working class, protecting the unemployed, nationalisation and a mixed economy. New labour’s based entirely on copying the Tories and trying to steal their ideas and voters. And hence this attempt by the three Lambeth councillors to pack the party with voters from the Right, all the while screaming about the threat of the extreme left. The Blairites themselves are entryists – capitalist entryist, spouting Thatcherite nonsense. This should have no more place in the Labour party than Communists or Trotskyites on the hard Left.

Yugoslavian Workers’ Factory Councils: The Legal Basis

February 28, 2014

Self-Management Yugoslavia

I’ve blogged recently about the system of Socialist Self-Management, which the Communists set up in Yugoslavia under Tito. As well as the management boards in factories and other enterprises, this also set up a system of workers’ councils, which were given powers to supervise and review the decisions of the managerial board. These councils were co-ordinated at a national level through a chamber set up as part of the National Assembly. The first legislation laying the system’s foundations was the Directive on the Establishment and Work of Workers’ Councils of State Economic Enterprises of December 1949.

One of the objectives of the system was to give workers more experience of management, and to train them up to take their places as members of the executive. Article 1 of the Directive stated

Subject to a proper organization and functioning of workers’ councils, workers will be given an opportunity not only to acquire a better insight into the work and problems of the enterprise but also to exert a direct influence on production and the management of the enterprise. Workers will thus gain enormous experience, and every opportunity will be provided for executive cadres of the enterprise to be drawn from the ranks of the workers.

Article 1, paragraph 3 specified the councils’ duties. They were to

– review the proposed business plan of the enterprise, consider the elaboration of the basic plan of the enterprise for the various plants, and of the basic plan for construction of community amenities and give its opinion on them;

– review the house rules of the enterprise and give its criticisms;

– propose proper measures for the improvement of production, rationalization of production, raising of labour productivity, lowering of production costs, improvement of quality, new production developments, savings, and reduction of waste;

– propose measures for a better functioning of the enterprise and for the elimination of technical and administrative defects;

– discuss the work norms of the enterprise and make its recommendations;

– review the deployment of the work force and make its criticisms and recommendations;

– see to the proper training of technical personnel;

– make recommendations for the classification of administrative posts and the internal organization of the enterprise;

– review the draft rules governing work discipline in the enterprise, consider measures designed to prevent infringements of work discipline, absenteeism and arbitrary resignations, and make its recommendations;

– participate in supervising the utilization of public property, consider cases of vandalism, wastefulness and other cases of an irresponsible attitude towards public property, and recommend measures for the prevention, elimination and uncovering of such incidents;

– see to the proper application of occupational safety programmes.

Paragraph 4 stated that ‘The workers’ council has a special duty to do everything in its power to remove difficulties arising in connection with the fulfilment of planned targets and to combat all forms of indifference or hostility as seen in disparagement of our capabilities’.

The councils were to be elected at the beginning of each year by all the workers and office staff. These would be convened by the trade union chapter executive, but non-union members would also be allowed to vote. The work’s director was an ex officio member of the factory council. One elected, the members of the factory council were to elect a president and secretary from their own ranks. Moreover, if the trade union executive considered that the workers’ council or some of its members were not fulfilling their duties correctly, he had the power to call a meeting of all the workers and elect a new council, or replacements for those council members, who weren’t doing their duties properly.

At first the people voting for the council, or placed on it, seem to have been very small. Article II, paragraph 5 states that ‘The membership of the workers’ council should represent between 1 and 5 per cent of the employed workers and office personnel. Article 10 of the Basic Law on the Management of State Economic Enterprises and Higher Economic Associations by Work Collectivities of June 1950 expanded and clarified this. It stated that the workers’ council of an enterprise shall consist of between 15 and 20 members …. In enterprises which have fewer than 30 workers and office personnel, the entre work collectivity shall make up the workers’ council.’

The workers’ councils were to meet once a month to discuss the enterprise’s monthly business. Decisions were to be made by voting with a show of hands. The enterprise’s director had to be abide by their decisions. If he didn’t agree with them, he had to refer them to an administrative-operational officer. The workers’ council similarly had the right to refer the administrative-operational officers decisions to the higher state executives, if they disagreed with them. Under Article 26 of the 1950 Directive, the management board of each enterprise was to be elected by the worker’s council.

This legislation clearly gave the workers a significant degree of power over the operation of their enterprises through their councils, though I don’t know much power they exercised in practice compared to the demands of the state bureaucracy. The two architects of the system, Milovan Djilas and Edvard Kardelj, later fell from power for ‘Anarcho-Syndicalist deviation’. Nevertheless, this legislation does point the way to how a similar system could be set and adopted elsewhere to give their workers a voice in the management of their enterprises. Similar legislation was introduced in Germany in 1952 and 1976. The Financial Times did a feature on factory councils in Britain back in the 1990s. They estimated that there were 200 or so firms in Britain, which had them. A spokesman for the Conservative Party stated in the article that they did not have any objection to them, they just didn’t feel they should be compulsory. My guess is that with the more aggressive attitudes to management introduced by the Tories, there would be considerable opposition within the Tory part to any such system. The similar German system of Industrial Codetermination was attacked, at least partly, by the employers organisations as an attack on property rights. Nevertheless, the Germans considered their own version of workers’ control as leading to social and industrial stability. It says something for practical common sense of modern, democratic Germany that this was achieved through drawing workers into the system and giving them more rights, rather than the complete suppression of workers’ rights by the Tories.

The Coalition’s Secret Courts and Communist Yugoslavia

February 21, 2014

Djilas

Leading Yugoslav Communist and Dissident, Milovan Djilas

In March last year (2013) the Coalition passed legislation setting up a system of secret courts. The irate Yorkshireman at Another Angry Voice has blogged several times on this issue, and has given this short description of them:

As it now stands, defendants (or claimants in civil cases) can be excluded from the hearings where their fates are decided; they will not be allowed to know what the case against them is; they will not be allowed to enter the courtroom; they will not be allowed to know or challenge the details of the case; and they will not be allowed representation from their own lawyer, but will instead be represented (in their absence) by a security-cleared “special advocate”.

See his post ‘The Very Illiberal Democrats’ at http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/secret-courts-very-illiberal-democrats.html.

The former Yugoslav Communist leader and dissident, Milovan Djilas, describes his experience of being prosecuted through such secret justice in his account of his political career in Yugoslavia in the 1940’s and ’50’s, Rise and Fall. With Edvard Kardelj he was one of the architects of the Yugoslav system of workers’ self-management. This gave employees some control over the management of their businesses through a system of work’s councils, somewhat like the original workers’ soviets in the USSR, before they were taken over and used as an instrument of rigid political control by Lenin. Djilas went further. He attempted to free Yugoslavia from the monolithic control of the country and the economy by the party. He suggested that it should be renamed the ‘Communist League’, and should retreat from political control to give power to the Yugoslavian people and the workers themselves.

Some of these reforms were the result of Tito’s break with Stalin. Tito and the other Yugoslavian Communists were afraid that their country was gradually being transformed by Stalin into a satellite, subject to the control and political and economic demands of the USSR. As a result, they broke with Stalin’s Comintern, and began to seek greater links and a rapprochement with the West. It also led them to re-examine Marxist doctrine. Djilas went further than the others in attacking the Leninist foundations of international Communism. he also adopted a far more critical approach to Marxism itself, seeing it as political tradition, rather than a source of infallible dogma. He states in Rise and Fall that he was hoping to create a united, Socialist Yugoslavia, open to other Socialist parties and movements, in which the Communists would be merely the most active part. For these heresies he was twice prosecuted and imprisoned.

In both of these instances he was tried in a secret court, with judges, who were either prejudiced against him, or under pressure from the authorities to produce a guilty verdict. He was also refused representation by his own lawyer, and had instead one appointed for him by the court. It was therefore a foregone conclusion that he would be found guilt and sent to prison.

Whatever the Coalition may claim to the contrary, this is precisely the type of miscarriage of justice that will occur with these courts in operation. It is a fundamental principle of British justice that not only should justice be done, it should be seen to be done. That’s why, historically, courts have public galleries and the doors were opened to the public when they were in session. These courts violate this most basic principle that has been one of the keystones of the British justice system since the Middle Ages. The result of this will be the false imprisonment of defendants. It is also one step further in the undermining of British democracy itself. It is only a few short steps from these secret courts to the type of dictatorial regime that prosecuted and imprisoned Djilas. This is not just a problem for Communist regimes, but also for supposedly liberal, capitalist countries like Britain. And we cannot be complacent.

More on the Weird Psychology of Ian Duncan Smith

February 16, 2014

Ian Duncan Rimmer

Last week I put up a post showing how Ian Duncan Smith’s psychology conforms to the ‘drive to power’ identified by Nixon’s quondam psychiatrist, Dr Arnold Hutschnecker. As described in Alex de Jonge’s biography of Stalin, Hutschnecker

derives it from a painful sense of one’s own insignificance, a fear of death and the wish to have others die. It is associated with a low sexual drive and an inability to love. ‘It moves on the wings of aggression to overcome inferiority … Those whose power to love and consequently create has been broke will choose war inorder to experience an intoxicating sense of power and excitement’. (p. 510).

This seems to be a good diagnosis of a man, who has falsely claimed, amongst other things, to have a degree from an Italian institution that doesn’t issue them, and whose claim to have been an officer in the British army is also highly questionable.

laundry basket

A laundry basket, though not possibly the type IDS has been known to hide in.

Jaypot added a few more details to the discussion in her comment to the piece.

IDS is a narcissist and he enjoys the power he has over people’s lives. I truly believe that he enjoys hearing about the deaths of people as he can only feel enjoyment, and, perhaps a sexual release in his persecution of the poor.
Another emotion that IDS does feel is fear – he is absolutely terrified of everyone who is poor or beneath him, which has been seen on a number of occasions. One was hiding in a laundry basket in Edinburgh (PMSL) and one of the most famous ones is where he has the armed guards surrounding him when waiting to go into the committee about his “use of statistics and his waste of money on UC). Those armed police should NOT have had their guns pointed at anyone, least of all the small amount of people who had every right to also go into the committee hearing! I still think that should be dealt with by the police commissioner!
IDS is coming to the end of his failed “career”, just like his whole life has been one failure after another. Here’s hoping karma gets him and let’s hope it’s very soon.

Fear of the general public is another psychological trait IDS, and indeed Cameron and Georg Osborne, share with Stalin. None of them can be seen as ‘men of the people’ in the same sense of Hitler, Mussolini, or indeed, Oswald Mosely. While they like power, they seem to be definitely afraid of meeting the public except in highly organised and choreographed events. Until the 1930s, Stalin was very rarely photographed and granted very few interviews to the Soviet press. During the purges he was so terrified of the reactions of the Soviet people, that at the annual May Day parade in Moscow one year Red Square was empty of crowds, except for a group of children waving banner and slogans located a quarter of a mile away from Stalin and the other Communist leaders. All the cheering heard during that celebration of Communist power was recorded, and played over loudspeakers.

I similarly noticed that the Olympic Stadium was empty was David Cameron gave his speech imploring the Scots to stay in the United Kingdom. It was conspicuous that Cameron did not do the Scots the courtesy of addressing them directly in Scotland itself, but chose to make his statement in the London, the former metropolis of the British Empire. Furthermore, Alex Salmond has challenged him to a debate. Cameron has ducked this, saying that he will talk to the Scots people themselves later this year. This will, no doubt, be in a very carefully, micro-managed political walkabout, where hostile or dissenting voices can be side-lined or edited out to present an image of Cameron talking easily to an enthusiastic, or at least receptive, Scots public, rather than given the barrage of criticism and abuse he’s more likely to get north of the Border.

It also looks very much that Cameron knows that Salmond is the better debater, and is desperate not to lose face by being beaten in an argument with him in public. As for the general public south of the Border, it was very noticeable indeed that there was no-one except the media in the Olympic Stadium when he made the speech. If it had been Oswald Mosely, that stadium would have been full, along with heckling and mass fighting. This obviously wouldn’t look good for the leader of an ostensibly centre-right part, although Cameron shares Mosely contempt for the organised working class. And so Cameron stands to give a speech in an empty stadium.

George Osborne similarly appears anxious around the British public. One of my colleagues on the unemployment course I’m on at the moment remarked on how uncomfortable Osborne looked when he met a group of workers at an engineering factory on a political walkabout a few months ago. And so he well might. Osborne, like Cameron, is another aristocrat, who has nothing in common with the majority of the British people, and who clearly fears the reception he might get for his economic and social policies that are intended to shift the tax burden onto them and deprive them of even more public services in order to generate tax cuts for the rich.

As for workfare, Milovan Djilas, the Yugoslav Communist leader and dissident describes why the Yugoslavs tried to abolish forced voluntary work after their break with Stalin. He also states that he objected to it, not just because of the hardship and suffering it inflicted on the ‘volunteers’, but also because of the psychology behind it. He writes

Soon after Stalin’s death, we abolished voluntary mass physical labor for youth and disbanded the collective farms. The initiative for the first came from the youth leadership at its congress of March 6 and was promoted by economists: youth labor was too costly and inefficient. I supported their initiative, though more for political than for economic reasons. I felt that voluntary mass labor was an outmoded form that encouraged quasi-military, monolithic thinking among our young people-thinking more akin to slogans than to freedom.

This does, I think, also go straight to the heart of the thinking behind workfare in the definitely anti-Communist, private enterprise supporting Conservative party. The Conservatives like the army, or at least, they did until the Coalition decided to cut their funding too, and have tried to impose a military solution to social problems. I remember how they called for the re-introduction of conscription back in the 1980s to solve the problems of youth crime and poor education. A decade or so later, and Michael Howard was recommending US-style ‘boot camps’ to straighten out young offenders. The same mindset seems to permeate IDS’ and Osborne’s workfare. The Nudge Unit has been involved in shaping the various unemployment forms and procedures to that the unemployed see themselves and their own personal failings as the cause of their inability to find a job, rather than the economy or government policy. And mindless drudgery stacking shelves for Tesco and turning burgers also seems deliberately designed, not just to supply cheap labour to their corporate paymasters, but also to break the spirit of the unemployed. We have seen just how hostile the system is to anyone, who manages to get a fulfilling voluntary job outside of the menial drudgery prescribed by the DWP or Jobcentre Plus. Remember the case of the geography graduate, who was told that she couldn’t do voluntary work in a museum, and that she had to work instead at one of the supermarkets?

Now the army states that its training is designed to mould the psychology of its soldiers. A friend of mine, a former army officer, once told me that the army tries to break you, in order to put you back together. As with all the rest of the government’s policies, the Coalition has adopted only the negative parts of this process: the breaking of the individual’s spirit. While they claim that workfare encourages a proper attitude to work, clearly the other qualities the army seeks to inculcate in its soldiers and officers – courage, self-reliance, initiative, are not required. If they were, there would be absolutely no problem with that graduate doing her voluntary work at the Museum. But all that is really wanted is demoralised, obedient drones for corporate exploitation.

The Coalition conform to the psychology of tyrants like Stalin, who fear their own people, and attempt to destroy them physically and mentally. Workfare, like the mass ‘voluntary’ labour of the totalitarian regimes, is another tool in this process.

The Coalition’s Secret Courts and Communist Yugoslavia’s Gulags

February 15, 2014

gulag_1

Inmates at a Soviet Gulag

Many bloggers, including myself, have raised the issue of the Coalition’s increasing intolerance, its attempts to close down freedom of speech and the press through legislation such as the anti-lobbying bill. Vox Political yesterday reblogged a piece showing that Britain had fallen from 29th to 33rd place in the world for press freedom following the government’s campaign against the Guardian for publishing the revelations of comprehensive British and American secret surveillance.

One of the most alarming developments in the Coalition’s creation of an increasingly authoritarian and dictatorial state are the secret courts, which have been set up with the full backing of those champions of freedom and democracy, the Lib Dems. Another Angry Voice has particularly blogged and commented on them. He gives this brief description of them:

For those of you that don’t know about what the Tory “Secret Courts” bill entails, here’s a brief description: As it now stands, defendants (or claimants in civil cases) can be excluded from the hearings where their fates are decided; they will not be allowed to know what the case against them is; they will not be allowed to enter the courtroom; they will not be allowed to know or challenge the details of the case; and they will not be allowed representation from their own lawyer, but will instead be represented (in their absence) by a security-cleared “special advocate”.

See his post ‘Secret Courts: The Very Illiberal Democrats’ at http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/secret-courts-very-illiberal-democrats.html

This legislation places Britain alongside the nightmarish perversions of justice described in fiction by Franz Kafka in his novels The Castle and The Trial, in which the hero has been arrested and repeatedly interrogated for an unknown crime. He does not know himself what he is supposed to have done, and the authorities never tell him. This grotesque injustice was the reality in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Under the Ba’ath legal code, there were a set of laws, knowledge of whose existence was also prohibited and for which individuals could be arrested and tried. I can remembering hearing about this through the BBC’s radio coverage of the arrest and eventual execution of Bazoft, a British journalist of Iranian origin, who was arrested for spying by Hussein’s regime. The passage last March of the Secret Courts bill, and the government’s attempt to prosecute the Guardian for Snowden and clamp down on other forms of dissent, raises the real possibility that such a grotesque miscarriage of justice will also occur in Britain.

Apart from Hussein’s Iraq, it is also very, very much like the totalitarian regimes of the Stalinist Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, where anyone considered to be a threat to the regime was subject to summary arrest and deportation into the concentration camps and gulags. Further communication with them was difficult, if not impossible. In both regimes those arrested simply disappeared. For the Nazis, such unexplained disappearances were a deliberate part of the system of arrest and imprisonment. It was called ‘Nacht und Nebel’, or ‘Night and Fog’, and was intended to cause even further terror of the Nazi dictatorship.

Djilas

Milovan Djilas, Yugoslav Communist leader and dissident

The Yugoslavian Communist regime of Marshal Tito also established a gulag after it’s split with Stalin in the late 1940s. The Yugoslavs were resisting Stalin’s attempt to turn their country into a satellite of the Soviet Union. Undercover of diplomatic missions, joint Yugoslav-Soviet companies and even a Soviet film of Tito’s victory in the Second World War and the rise of the Communist government in Yugoslavia, Stalin’s regime attempted to recruit spies against Tito’s government. The international Communist organisation, the Cominform, was also used to recruit agents and spread discontent in order to undermine Yugoslavia’s independence.

The regime responded with the summary arrest of anyone suspected of pro-Soviet sympathies and the establishment of a gulag for them on Goli Otok, or Bare Island. Milovan Djilas, a former Vice-President of Yugoslavia, President of the National Assembly and later leading dissident, describes the system of arrests and the brutal conditions under which the inmates were held in his autobiographical account of the regime and his part in it, Rise and Fall.

He notes the camp’s extra-legal basis, and the way it was established at the highest authority.

The camp for Cominformists on Goli Otok (“Bare Island”) in the northern Adriatic was organized without a legal basis. At first, Cominformists were simply taken into custody and shipped there. A law was passed later covering obligatory “socially useful labor,” as the camp activities were innocently designated for official purposes. Moreover, not even the Politburo, or its inner circle, the Secretariat, ever made any decision about the camp. It was made by Tito himself and implemented through Rankovic’s State Security apparatus. (p. 235).

After examining the motives behind those who joined the Cominform against the Yugoslavian regime, including personal rivalry and frustration at their lack of personal advancement, Djilas describes the harsh conditions in the camp.

Sentences to Goli Otok were imposed by the security organ. By law, no term could exceed two years, but there was no limit on its renewal. Inmates who languished there for ten years were not uncommon.

On his passage to the island the prisoner was shoved-in fact, hurled- to the bottom of the boat. Then, when he emerged on Goli Otok, he had to run the gauntlet. This was a double line of inmates, who vied with one another in hitting him. If gouged eyes were a rarity, broken teeth and ribs were not. There were also incorrigibles, who were subjected to lynching, sometimes spontaneous, sometimes not.

The inmates had no visitation rights. They received neither letters nor packages-at least not in the early period. Until word leaked out unofficially, their families had no idea where they were; letters were addressed to a number, as to soldiers in wartime. Their labor was not only hard and compulsory, but often meaningless as well. One of the punishments was carrying heavy stones back and forth. Work went on in all kinds of weather. What stuck in their tormented memories, as I can well understand, was labouring on rocky ground in scorching heat. State Security got carried away with making a productive enterprise out of Goli Otok, for this was the period when the Security bosses were tinkering with our economy and founding export firms; yet nothing came of this “production” but suffering and madness. Then, when finally released, inmates were sworn to silence about the camp and its methods. This could have been taken for granted, yet little by little the truth came out anyway, especially after the fall of Rankovic in 1966. (pp. 241-2).

Tito was intent on suppressing the Cominform in Yugoslavia with as little bloodshed as possible. The camp was intended on ‘re-educating’ the political prisoners, rather than murdering them, a process that was nevertheless carried out with extreme brutality.

This nuance of his-on the head but not off with it-explains why so few Cominformists were killed. But it also became the basis for unimagined, unheard-of coercion, pressure, and torture on the island. There, re-education, or “head-knocking”, was made the responsibility of certain inmates- the “reconstructed” ones-who in effect collaborated with Security. The latter involved itself as little as possible, leaving the re-education to “self-managing units” made up of reconstructed inmates, who went to inhuman extreme to ingratiate themselves and win their own release. They were inventive in driving their fellow victims similarly to “reconstruct” themselves. There is no limit to the hatred and meanness of the new convert toward yesterday’s coreligionists. (p. 241).

Djilas makes it clear that many of those interned in the camp would not have been imprisoned if they had instead been tried in an open court.

But regardless of any such factor, there is no question that the vast majority of Cominformists would never have been sent to Goli Otok had the proceedings been the least bit legal, reasonable and undogmatic. People were arrested and committed to the camp for failure to report intimate “cominformist” conversations or for reading leaflets and listening to the short-wave radio. Subsequent victims included those who at the time of the resolution said that we ought to have attended the Bucharest meeting at which our party was condemned.

Djilas recognised that Communist ideology played a part in the construction of the camp and the terror they inflicted in order to destroy Stalin’s influence in Yugoslavia. He also cautions, however, against viewing such human rights abuses as a purely Communist phenomenon.

But the way we dealt with those arrested and their families-that was something else again. There was no need to behave as we did. That conduct sprang from our ideological dogmatism, from our Leninist and Stalinist methods, and, of course, in part from our Balkan traditions of reprisal.

But analyses can be left to historians and philosophers. My business is to get on with the tale, a tale of defeat and disgrace, not only for Yugoslav Communism but also for our times and humankind. If the Yugoslav gulag, like the Soviet, is explained purely in terms of the “inhuman” or “antihuman” nature of Communism, that is an oversimplified judgment that in its way is just as ideological. Ideology, I think, was only a motivational expression, the appeal to an ideal, justifying the insane human yearning to be lord and master. Sending people off to camps is neither the invention nor the distinction of Communists. People like those of us at the top of the heap, with our ideals and absolute power,, are bound to throw our opponents into a camp. yet if the treatment of the inmates had come up for discussion-if discussion had not been precluded by Tito’s omnipotent will-different views would have emerged among us and more common-sense and human procedures would have been instituted. Some of us were aware of this paradox: a camp must be established, yet to do so was terrible. (pp. 236-7).

The Western press was also content not to report the existence of the forced labour camp.

Characteristic both of the time and of the relationships then unfolding was the attitude towards the press, Eastern as well as Western, toward the camp. The Western press by an large showed no interest in it, certainly no critical interest. The same could be said of the Western diplomatic corps. Whenever the persecution of Cominformists came up, as if by agreement these diplomats displayed a tacit understand: our independence and the state were threatened by a combination of external and internal pressure. But there was also a note of ambiguity, of malicious joy behind the Westerners’ façade of understanding: let the Communists exterminate each other and so reveal the very nature of Communism. (pp. 242-3).

All these elements are present in the policies the Coalition has adopted towards press freedom and the unemployed. The secret courts set up by the Coalition would allow those deemed to be a threat to be tried without the normal conventions to ensure justice and protect the accused until they are found guilty. This is important: in British law, you are innocent until the court is convinced of your guilt, and the onus is on the prosecution to prove their case.

The Coalition have also shown themselves more than willing to use psychological techniques to indoctrinate their policies’ victims. The unemployment courses and forms drawn up with the advice of the Nudge Unit are designed so that the unemployed will blame themselves for their joblessness, rather than the economy.

Elements within the Conservative party have also at times called for the establishment of camps for individuals they judged to be a threat to the British state. One of the reasons behind the assassination of Airey Neave, Margaret Thatcher’s political mentor, in the 1970s by the INLA was because Neave had called for the establishment of internment camps in northern Ireland. And as workfare shows, there is a strong impulse towards using compulsory ‘voluntary’ labour to support big business in Britain, just as it was used in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, and, for that matter, Tito’s Yugoslavia.

Nor can the British press be depended on to guard traditional British freedoms of speech and justice. AS Mike over at Vox Political has shown, part of the reason for the marked decline in press freedom in this country is due to the Right-wing press’ collusion with the authorities in attacking the Guardian and Edward Snowden. It’s has been alleged by Lobster that in the 1980s the Sunday Times under Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil was a conduit for disinformation from the British security services. Certainly Neil has shown no qualms about making unsupported claims about Allende’s democratically elected Marxist government in Chile in order to support the coup led by Thatcher’s friend, General Pinochet.

These secret courts, the gagging laws and workfare have to be stopped now, before they develop into something exactly like the forced labour camps of the Nazis and Communists. And that has to start by voting out the Coalition.

Cameron Pic

Nick Clegg

David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Together their reforms are laying the foundations for a police state and forced labour camps.