Posts Tagged ‘New Deal’

Fox News Drools over Mandatory Patriotism Class in College of the Ozarks

November 2, 2017

The use of patriotism as a disguise for right-wing indoctrination gets another boost in this small section of the American education system. In this clip from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski talks about a piece on Fox News, where they discuss the introduction of a new, mandatory freshman class on patriotism and the military at the College of the Ozarks with the college’s president, Gerry Davis. Actually, discuss is probably not the right word. ‘Rave about’ and ‘fawn over’ are probably better descriptors.

Davis states that the course will including rifle shooting, map reading and tying knots, as well as respect for the flag, as these parts of the curriculum are modelled on basic training in the American military. He states that everyone in America owes a debt to their armed forces. As for sport, he states that the college football and other sports teams would not play another side, whose team members refused to stand for the flag. And he states that it’s disrespectful for a squaddie, who’s served in Afghanistan, to have to see some multi-millionaire kneeling. This is clearly a reference to Colin Kaepernick and the other American football players, who have knelt when the flag is raised before games to show their support for Black Lives Matter and protest the shooting of unarmed Blacks.

Kulinski is understandable bitterly critical about the double standards towards free speech shown by the college and its administrators, and by the Republicans towards peaceful protest. He states that if others were assembling a course on patriotism, a few of the things they might put in it could be the Civil Rights movement, perhaps the New Deal, and the Constitution. But none of those are included, because it doesn’t reflect the personal tastes of Davis himself. And any course on patriotism should include how great it is to live in a country, that will allow you to burn the flag in a peaceful protest. He points out that peaceful protest is one of the most American of institutions. But this move means that it is ruled out, and there is literally no way people can express their feelings about injustice as these are also angrily denounced or suppressed by the patriotic right. If they march in the street, they’re accused of making a mountain out of a molehill. They can’t riot without being denounced, obviously, and so, with simply kneeling for the flag also attacked, there is simply nothing they can do to raise awareness of the issue of the cops killing innocent Blacks. And this is the attitude of the American patriotic right.

Who claim they are the defenders of free speech, except when it challenges the flag and the military. ‘You f***ing hypocrites’, Kulinski describes them.

As for ending the cavalier judicial murder of Black Americans, Kulinski suggests this could be done by passing laws setting up community policing, making all police wear body cameras and ending the war on drugs.

He ends by saying that if these people were truly concerned with patriotism, they’d be willing to let people kneel for the flag, even if they didn’t agree with them. But instead the president of the US himself, has said that people should fired for doing so.

Kulinski’s right about all of this, and the issue of respecting the flag has been raised before. Back in the 1980s when Reagan was in the White House, there was a storm of outrage when a young member of the Communist party publicly burned the flag in protest at Reagan’s policies. The great American comedian, Bill Hicks, lampooned the Republican protests and loud denunciations which followed.

He said he didn’t want anyone to burn the flag. But the flag wasn’t freedom. You can’t burn freedom because freedom is freedom. And that includes the freedom to burn the flag. Or words to that effect. It’s a long time since I listened to the joke.

As for Americans owing something to the military, that’s true up to a point. This arguably begins and ends round about the Second World War and the attack on Pearl Harbour. The other wars America has fought across the globe have not been about protecting America or democracy, but preserving capitalism against the threat of Communism. This has meant the overthrow of even moderately liberal or reformist governments in order to protect and extend American corporate interests. 9/11 was an act of war against America, but the western armed forces that are now stationed in the country have long outstayed any residual welcome they may have had, and are now in fact actively counterproductive in that they are creating opposition to the West. And the subsequent invasions and military actions that have taken place under the guise of the War on Terror, such as the Iraq invasion, the bombing of Syria and the overthrow of Gaddafi, are simply more geopolitical imperialist adventures, in which the lives of brave squaddies are being spilt simply to boost the profits of big corporations.

Perhaps if America and the West genuinely wanted to respect our troops, we would just make sure they’d only be sent in when our security was directly threatened. And not as cannon-fodder for Raytheon and the other defence contractors to make another killing on the stock exchange.

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Sam Seder’s Majority Report on the Koch Brothers and Libertarian Holocaust Denial

September 30, 2017

More Nazis and Holocaust deniers again, I’m afraid. But this is very relevant, as it compliments the other information I’ve found showing the profound links between Libertarianism and neo-Nazism.

In this half-hour segment from The Majority Report, Seder’s producer and occasional presenter, Michael Brooks, talks to Mark Ames, the senior editor of Pando Daily, about how he found out that the Koch Brother’s magazine, Reason, published pro-Apartheid and Holocaust Denial pieces in the 1970s. The Koch brothers are oil billionaires. They’re probably America’s richest men, with a net worth of $100 billion. And they’ve been involved in rightwing politics since the 1960s/70s. They were two of the founders of the Libertarian party in the 1970s, which campaigns for the absolute dismantlement of whatever remains of the American welfare state, massive privatization and the paring down of the federal government to the barest minimum. All in the interests of free trade, capitalism and property.

Ames states that he and his colleague, Yashler, started researching the Kochs after they were kicked out of Russia. They had been active there exposing the oligarchs and their murky involvement and connections to politics. This went too far for Putin and the Russian authorities, and they were expelled. Back in the Land of the Free, Ames and Yashler became interested in the Kochs and their political activities because they looked very much like same type of phenomenon: just another pair of oligarchs, meddling and perverting politics. But they found out that the pair were more seriously committed than most oligarchs.

They also found references to Koch’s having published Holocaust denial literature in the Libertarian party’s magazine, Reason. The Libertarians had tried to remove all records of it, and they had trouble hunting it down, but eventually they found it. It was from 1976, when the magazine published an entire edition devoted to denying the Holocaust. Ames mentions the names of some of the people published in that issue, and their connections to extreme right-wing and neo-Nazi movements. One of them was a British member of the National Front. The issue is now online, apparently, and he showed it to Deborah Lipstadt, the expert on Holocaust Denial. She said it was a list of nearly everyone involved in this pernicious attack on history.

He also found that at the same time, Reason was also publishing articles praising Apartheid in South Africa. When Ames published his articles on the promotion of Holocaust Denial and Apartheid, in both cases the magazine’s article came back to make a kind of non-denial that they had done so. They said that they had published the pieces denying the Holocaust as part of their commitment to academic freedom, but weren’t Holocaust deniers. They also claimed that they weren’t in favour of Apartheid, and had also published articles against it. In fact, the article they cited for this merely argued that South Africa, with its minimal labour legislation and regulation of industry, was a country enjoying a high level of freedom according to their Libertarian criteria. They also promoted tourist visits to the country. This was despite the fact that the Black population was very definitely unfree, forced into the Bantustans, where they suffered massive poverty and malnutrition, resulting in an appallingly high death rate.

The magazine’s and party’s attitudes only changed in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan. The Koch brothers want to push politics further to the right. They found that their ideas had now entered the mainstream with Reagan, with the exception of the racist and Nazi ideas. So they issued a statement complaining that these ideas were too popular, and dropped them so that they weren’t used to discredit the rest of their squalid programme.

Ames states that the Kochs published the Holocaust material as part of their ideological programme of rolling back Roosevelt’s New Deal. They want to destroy the minimal welfare legislation FDR introduced. However, it’s actually extremely popular because it has helped millions of Americans. To attack the New Deal, they therefore have to try and discredit FDR and present him as a monster. And that means attacking America’s entry in the Second World War. America did not enter the War to defend the Jews, but the Holocaust is clearly one of the strongest justifications for it. And so the Kochs and their collaborators wanted to discredit the Holocaust, just as they spread daft conspiracy theories claiming that FDR was somehow responsible for, or knew in advance, about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.

Ames also states that they have an inverted idea of freedom, in which FDR is a Communist monster, as is MLK, who they’ve tried smearing as an agent of Moscow. Brooks and Ames agree, however, that MLK did have extreme views regarding the nationalization of industry. He did, and it’s one of the things, along with his deep criticism of American capitalism and racism, that’s conveniently left out of the modern cult surrounding him. They’re too extreme for right, despite remaining highly pertinent to today’s political situation with the political power of the big corporations and resurgent racism. They’ve also twisted and perverted the idea of who’s elite. They’ve tried to make it mean a public bureaucrat. In fact, it means the rich and propertied. Thus they’ve tried to turn FDR into a monster of statist power, like Adolf Hitler and a determined foe of freedom, even if this is the reverse of what he did by benefiting the American people with his welfare programmes.

Ames states that what made the public of Holocaust denial literature in Reason possible was the disordered and confused state of American politics at the time. Many left-wing ideas were floating around and looked like being accepted. Americans wanted the end of the Cold War, and there was even a feeling that the CIA would be abolished. The Koch brothers caught the mood, and tried to exploit it by introducing Holocaust denial and Libertarianism as two more radical ideas that should now be considered freely along with the other, left-wing ideas. And the Kochs weren’t alone in publishing Holocaust denial material. A whole slew of other right-wing thinktanks also did so, including the Cato Institute.

And he also points out that before the Neo-Cons arose, many of whose members were Jewish, Jews were most often associated with the Left and socialism. One of the founders of the Neo-Con movement actually wrote a piece asking why Jews were so against capitalism. Ames states that this attitude survives today, and that he has been called a ‘cultural Marxist’, which he sees as another anti-Semitic code word for ‘Jew’.

This little bit is important, as it adds to the information I’ve found already showing how Libertarianism is morphing into outright Fascism. Reichwing Watch has put up a series of pieces, including testimony from former Libertarians, showing how the Libertarian organisations are full of real White supremacists and Nazis. This has gone so far that the Black Libertarian YouTuber, ‘That Guy T’, has made enthusiastic videos about the emergence of what he calls ‘Anarcho-Fascism’. In fact, Italian Fascism was an extreme right-wing revision of anarcho-syndicalism. The corporate state is what you get when former Syndicalists decide that they actually like the state and big business, and despise working class trade unions. The Spanish Fascists tried to get the Syndicalists to join them in the Spanish Civil War by stressing their common origins and rejection of parliamentary democracy. The syndicalists remained true to their principles, and told them where they could stick it.

The Libertarians have got inside the Republican Party, and they’re also over here, influencing the Tories and UKIP. And their British counterparts have been as every bit sympathetic to South American Fascists as they have been. Back in the 1990s the Freedom Association, or one of the Libertarian organisations in the Tory party, invited the head of one of Rios Montt’s death squads from El Salvador to their annual dinner as guest of honour. And one of the members of this British Libertarian outfit was the founder of the Guido Fawkes blog, now ranting about anti-Semitism in the Labour party. The accusation that Labour has a particular problem with Jews is a smear by the Blairites and the Israel lobby. In the case of Guido, it’s pure hypocrisy coming from someone, who was part of an organization that admired and lauded Fascist butchers and torturers. Just as the Libertarians and Monetarists in America, as Ames and Brooks comment, proudly embraced Chile and the other Fascists in South America.

The times’ long past when Libertarian ideas should have been expelled from the mainstream. They, and the people that make these claims, should be expelled from decent political debate and activism.

This shows that the Nazi element in Libertarianism isn’t a recent aberration. It’s always been there, as part of the Libertarians’ reactionary programme against welfare legislation, democracy and the state. The Libertarians have always tried to claim that they are just another form of anarchism, but one which rejects communal ownership of property in favour of capitalism. But as this shows, they’ve always had a Fascistic dimension.

As for all the right-wing ideologues, who immediately denounce anything vaguely left or progressive as ‘cultural Marxism’, without having any idea what that really means, Ames’ statement that the term is just another anti-Semitic code word throws it back in their face. Many of those, who use it try to smear socialism and the Left by claiming that Hitler’s Nazis were socialists. They weren’t. But if the term is seen as a form of anti-Semitic abuse, then it means that those, who use it to attack the left are also anti-Semitic, thus reversing the accusation and turning it back on them.

American Comedian Jimmy Dore on the Jeremy Corbyn Commercial that Made Right-Wingers Cry

August 18, 2017

Remember the advert for Jeremy Corbyn that went around a week or so ago, which showed a group of very middle class people sneering at Corbyn and his supporters, while showing up how each and everyone was a hypocrite? Here the American comedian, Jimmy Dore, comments on the advert and why it’s so good.

The various characters featured sitting round a dinner type, guzzling wine and moaning about how modern kids want something for nothing, are all portrayed as having done exactly the same themselves. Such as a man moaning about how students don’t want to pay for their university tuition, when he himself never paid for his. The Tories and their supporters went berserk, claiming it was just bourgeois stereotypes, and that ‘Lenin would have been so proud’.

As Dore points out, these aren’t stereotypes. Mike also made the point in a blog post he put up about it that, for all their whining, the Tories hadn’t actually shown that these ‘bourgeois stereotypes’ were wrong. They clearly aren’t, as you can see by reading the Daily Heil or some of the letters from right-wingers in the press. There was one from a woman in the I newspaper a week or so ago which claimed that Corbyn was ‘bribing’ students with promises to make university education free.

Dore also goes on to discuss neoliberalism and globalism, and how they approach the economy the wrong way round. This should all be familiar to people who read Mike’s blog, and Another Angry Voice and Mainly Macro. He points out that these came in with Ronald Reagan. Neoliberalism wants taxes cut to give more money to those at the top. But this doesn’t work. F.D.R. showed that with his New Deal. If you give money to working people, they spend it and stimulate the economy. If you give it to the rich and the bosses, they don’t do anything with it. The money just sits in their bank accounts and stagnates.

As for globalism, this means simply taking domestic – American, in this case – jobs and offshoring them to another country where the people are even more desperate than in America. The corporation profits, but not America, because the profits don’t come back over here.

He also attacks the trend for great mechanization, and the craze for driverless cars and robots at McDonalds. This suffers from the same problem, as driverless cars and robots don’t spend money.

As for domestic poverty, a half of all American wage earners are paid less than $30,000. This is in the richest country in the world.

And Dore also points out that while Ronald Reagan introduced neoliberalism – a misnomer, as there’s nothing ‘liberal’ about it, it was Bill Clinton, who put it on steroids. So did Tony Blair, who, he reminds us, is like George Dubya, a war criminal.

In addition to these comments, it struck me that one reason the Tories went berserk over this is because Channel 4 screened a real-life programme that was very, very much like this shortly before Labour’s landslide election in ’97. It was called ‘The Dinner Party’, or something similar, and featured a group of very middle class individuals sat round a dinner table, making stupid, ill-informed and bigoted comments about the lower orders. The Independent, if I recall correctly, reviewed it, and said that it almost made the Labour victory inevitable.

Which is clearly what the Tories and their supporters are afraid of here.

They’re also upset because they can’t refute it. It strikes too close to home. So all they can do is moan about how stereotypical it is, without offering any real evidence to refute it.

Reichwing Watch: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America

November 16, 2016

This is another excellent video from Reichwing Watch. Entitled Peasants for Plutocracy: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America, it’s about how wealthy industrialists, like the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, created modern Libertarianism and a stream of fake grassroots ‘astroturf’ organisations, in order to attack and roll back Roosevelt’s New Deal and the limited welfare state it introduced. And one of the many fake populist organisations the Koch brothers have set up is the Tea Party movement, despite the Kochs publicly distancing themselves from it.

The documentary begins with footage from an old black and white American Cold War propaganda movie, showing earnest young people from the middle decades of the last century discussing the nature of capitalism. It then moves on to Noam Chomsky’s own, very different perspective on an economy founded on private enterprise. Chomsky states that there has never been a purely capitalist economy. Were one to be established, it would very soon collapse, and so what we have now is state capitalism, with the state playing a very large role in keeping capitalism viable. He states that the alternative to this system is the one believed in by 19th century workers, in that the people, who worked in the mills should own the mills. He also states that they also believed that wage labour was little different from slavery, except in that it was temporary. This belief was so widespread that it was even accepted by the Republican party. The alternative to capitalism is genuinely democratic self-management. This conflicts with the existing power structure, which therefore does everything it can to make it seem unthinkable.

Libertarianism was founded in America in 1946/7 by an executive from the Chamber of Commerce in the form of the Foundation for Economic Education. This was basically a gigantic business lobby, financed by the heads of Fortune 500 companies, who also sat on its board. It’s goal was to destroy Roosevelt’s New Deal. Vice-President Wallace in an op-ed column in the New York Times stated that while its members posed as super-patriots, they wanted to roll back freedom and capture both state and economic power. The video also quotes Milton Friedman, the great advocate of Monetarism and free market economics, on capitalism as the system which offers the worst service at the highest possible profit. To be a good businessman, you have to be as mean and rotten as you can. And this view of capitalism goes back to Adam Smith. There is a clip of Mark Ames, the author of Going Postal, answering a question on why the media is so incurious about the true origins of Libertarianism. He states that they aren’t curious for the same reason the American media didn’t inquire into the true nature of the non-existent WMDs. It shows just how much propaganda and corruption there is in the American media.

The documentary then moves on to the Tea Party, the radical anti-tax movement, whose members deliberately hark back to the Boston Tea Party to the point of dressing up in 18th century costume. This section begins with clips of Fox News praising the Tea Party. This is then followed by Noam Chomsky on how people dread filling out their annual tax returns because they’ve been taught to see taxation as the state stealing their money. This is true in dictatorships. But in true democracy, it should be viewed differently, as the people at last being able to put into practice the plan in which everyone was involved in formulating. However, this frightens big business more than social security as it involves a functioning democracy. As a result, there is a concerted, and very successful campaign, to get people to fear big government.

The idea of the Tea Party was first aired by the CNBC reporter Rick Santilli in an on-air rant. Most of the Party’s members are normal, middle class Americans with little personal involvement in political campaigning. It is also officially a bi-partisan movement against government waste. But the real nature of the Tea Party was shown in the 2010 Tea Party Declaration of Independence, which stated that the Party’s aims were small government and a free market economy. In fact, the movement was effectively founded by the Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch. Back in the 1980s, David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s vice-president. The Libertarian Party’s 1980 platform stated that they intended to abolish just about every regulatory body and the welfare system. They intended to abolish the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Authority, Occupational Health and Safety Administration, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, National Labor Relations Board, the FBI, CIA, Federal Reserve, Social Security, Welfare, the public (state) schools, and taxation. They abandoned this tactic, however, after pouring $2 million of their money into it, only to get one per cent of the vote. So in 1984 they founded the first of their wretched astroturf organisation, Citizens for a Sound Economy. The name was meant to make it appear to be a grassroots movement. However, their 1998 financial statement shows that it was funded entirely by wealthy businessmen like the Kochs. In 2004 the CSE split into two – Freedom Works, and Americans for Prosperity. The AFP holds an annual convention in Arlington, Virginia, attended by some of its 800,000 members. It was the AFP and the Kochs who were the real organising force behind the Tea Party. Within hours of Santilli’s rant, he had been given a list of 1/2 million names by the Kochs. Although the Koch’s have publicly distanced themselves from the Tea Party, the clip for this section of the documentary shows numerous delegates at the convention standing up to declare how they had organised Tea Parties in their states. But it isn’t only the AFP that does this. Freedom Works, which has nothing to do with the Kochs, also funds and organises the Tea Parties.

Mark Crispin Miller, an expert on propaganda, analysing these astroturf organisations makes the point that for propaganda to be effective, it must not seem like propaganda. It must seem to come either from a respected, neutral source, or from the people themselves. Hence the creation of these fake astroturf organisations.

After its foundation in the late 1940s, modern Libertarianism was forged in the late 1960s and ’70s by Charles Koch and Murray Rothbard. Libertarianism had previously been the ideology of the John Birch Society, a group harking back to the 19th century. Koch and Rothbard married this economic extreme liberalism, with the political liberalism of the hippy counterculture. They realised that the hippies hated the state, objecting to the police, drug laws, CIA and the Vietnam war. Ayn Rand, who is now credited as one of the great founders of Libertarianism for her extreme capitalist beliefs, despised them. The film has a photo of her, next to a long quote in which she describes Libertarianism as a mixture of capitalism and anarchism ‘worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two different bandwagons… I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect.’

The documentary also goes on to show the very selective attitude towards drugs and democracy held by the two best-known American Libertarian politicos, Ron and Rand Paul. Despite the Libertarians’ supposedly pro-marijuana stance, the Pauls aren’t actually in favour of legalising it or any other drugs. They’re just in favour of devolving the authority to ban it to the individual states. If the federal government sends you to prison for weed, that, to them, is despotism. If its the individual state, it’s liberty.

And there’s a very telling place piece of footage where Ron Paul talks calmly about what a threat democracy is. He states clearly that democracy is dangerous, because it means mob rule, and privileges the majority over the minority. At this point the video breaks the conversation to show a caption pointing out that the Constitution was framed by a small group of wealthy plutocrats, not ‘we the people’. This is then followed by an American government film showing a sliding scale for societies showing their positions between the poles of democracy to despotism, which is equated with minority rule. The video shows another political scientist explaining that government and elites have always feared democracy, because when the people make their voices heard, they make the wrong decisions. Hence they are keen to create what Walter Lipmann in the 1920s called ‘manufacturing consent’. Real decisions are made by the elites. The people themselves are only allowed to participate as consumers. They are granted methods, which allow them to ratify the decisions of their masters, but denied the ability to inform themselves, organise and act for themselves.

While Libertarianism is far more popular in America than it is over here, this is another video that’s very relevant to British politics. There are Libertarians over here, who’ve adopted the extreme free-market views of von Hayek and his fellows. One of the Torygraph columnists was particularly vocal in his support for their doctrines. Modern Tory ideology has also taken over much from them. Margaret Thatcher was chiefly backed by the Libertarians in the Tory party, such as the National Association For Freedom, which understandably changed its name to the Freedom Foundation. The illegal rave culture of the late 1980s and 1990s, for example, operated out of part of Tory Central Office, just as Maggie Thatcher and John Major were trying to ban it and criminalise ‘music with a repetitive beat’. Virginian Bottomley appeared in the Mail on Sunday back in the early 1990s raving about how wonderful it would be to replace the police force with private security firms, hired by neighbourhoods themselves. That’s another Libertarian policy. It comes straight from Murray Rothbard. Rothbard also wanted to privatise the courts, arguing that justice would still operate, as communities would voluntarily submit to the fairest court as an impartial and non-coercive way of maintain the peace and keeping down crime. The speaker in this part of the video describes Koch and Rothbard as ‘cretins’. Of course, it’s a colossally stupid idea, which not even the Tory party wanted to back. Mind you, that’s probably because they’re all in favour of authoritarianism and state power when its wielded by the elite.

I’ve no doubt most of the Libertarians in this country also believe that they’re participating in some kind of grassroots, countercultural movement, unaware that this is all about the corporate elite trying to seize more power for themselves, undermine genuine democracy, and keep the masses poor, denied welfare support, state education, and, in Britain, destroying the NHS, the system of state healthcare that has kept this country healthy for nearly 70 years.

Libertarians do see themselves as anarchists, though anarcho-individualists, rather than collectivists like the anarcho-syndicalists or Communists. They aren’t. This is purely about expanding corporate power at the expense of the state and the ordinary citizens it protects and who it is supposed to represent and legislate for. And it in practice it is just as brutal as the authoritarianism it claims to oppose. In the 1980s the Freedom Association became notorious on the left because of its support for the death squads in Central America, also supported by that other Libertarian hero, Ronald Reagan.

Libertarianism is a brutal lie. It represents freedom only for the rich. For the rest of us, it means precisely the opposite.

Two Pieces by American Socialist and Union Leader, Eugene V. Debs

September 10, 2016

Eugene V. Debs was one of the great leaders of the working class movement in America, a radical trade unionist and socialist. I found these two pieces, Why You should Vote for Socialism, and Industrial and Social Democracy, on YouTube. In them, Debs argues that only socialism can save American workers from the grinding poverty, brutality and exploitation of modern capitalist production, and attacking progressives, Democrats and Republicans as providing no solutions for working Americans. The tracts were written in the first years of 20th century, before FDR’s New Deal gave Americans some limited welfare benefits, and his make work policies boosted employment during the Depression. The Democrat party also did much to introduce some welfare provision in America in the late 1960s, with the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid by Lyndon Johnson. His comments nevertheless have renewed significance with Hillary Clinton’s rejection of anything even remotely progressive or ‘left-wing’ in order to pursue the Corporatist Republican vote.

And the speeches also apply over this side of the Atlantic, where the working and lower middle classes are being forced into poverty through zero-hours contracts, benefit cuts and attacks on workers’ rights. Quite apart from a highly unfair tax structure that seeks to reward the very rich and shift the tax burden to the poor.

Why You Should Vote for Socialism

Industrial and Social Democracy

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 3

August 8, 2016

In addition to demolishing the government’s arguments in favour of workfare, Standing also provides a series of further arguments against it. These are that the jobs created through workfare aren’t real jobs; workfare is unjust in its treatment of the unemployed; it stops the unemployed actually looking for jobs for themselves; it lowers their income over their lifetime; it also acts to keep wages down; it keeps the people, who should be working at those jobs out of work; it’s a dangerous extension of the power of the state; and finally, it’s a gigantic scam which only benefits the welfare-to-work firms.

Workfare and Real Jobs

According to the ideas of the market economy developed by the pioneer of free trade, the 18th century philosopher Adam Smith, workfare jobs don’t actually constitute real jobs. Smith believed that the market would actually produce higher wages to entice people into performing unpleasant jobs. On this reasoning, if workfare jobs were real jobs, then they would have a definite economic value. They would be created through the operation of the market, and the workers in them would also be paid proper wages for performing them.

There are also moral problems in the definition of what constitutes a ‘real job’ that someone on workfare should have to perform. If it is defined as one paying the minimum wage, then workfare is immoral as it puts downward pressure on the wages and conditions of the people already performing those jobs, forcing them into poverty. If those ‘real jobs’ are defined as those which are dirty, dangerous, undignified or stigmatizing, and so unpopular, they would have the opposite effect of what the advocates of workfare claim – that they are encouraging people to find work.

The solution for progressive is to make the labour market act like it is supposed to act, rather than it actually does in practice. Adam Smith was quite wrong about wages adjusting upwards for unpopular jobs in a market economy. The wages provided for work should match both supply and demand, and people should not be made into commodities as workers. They should have enough economic support to be able to refuse jobs they don’t want. Instead of assuming that people need to be forced to work, there should be the presumption instead that most people actually do. It is arbitrary and ultimately demeaning for all concerned to try to identify people who are somehow ‘undeserving’. Genuine supporters of equality should want the wages in unpleasant jobs to rise, until there is a genuine supply of willing labour.

Workfare Is Unjust

Workfare unfairly penalises the unemployed. For example, in 2011 the ConDem government made the conditions imposed on benefit claimants and the penalties for avoidance under the Labour government’s New Deal even more stringent. Those performing workfare were required to work for up to thirty hours a week for 28 days. The work performed was to be that which benefited the community. Taken as wages, this meant that claimants were working at a rate of £2.50 an hour, well below the minimum wage. If they turned the job down, or didn’t complete the course of mandatory labour, they had their benefits sanctioned for three months. This was increased to six if they repeated the ‘transgression’. This is unjust, because no-one else in society is expected to work for the minimum wage except convicts in prison.

It’s also unjust in that it makes the economically insecure even more so, and takes away the way long-accepted social right to refuse to work. At the same time, it gives power over the unemployed to the state’s bureaucrats and the private outsourcing companies. Also, forced labour is offensive against human dignity and does not lead to increased person development.

Workfare Stops People Looking for Jobs

Spending thirty hours a week on workfare actually cuts down on the available time the unemployed are able to spend looking for work. P.A. Gregg, in their book Job Guarantee: Evidence and Design (Bristol: Bristol University Centre for Market and Public Organisation 2009) actually found that because of this, workfare actually stopped people from getting jobs.

Lowering Incomes over Life

Workfare is also unjust, as instead of giving people the ability to acquire a career, or jobs leading to one, it may instead lower their long-term income by keeping them in a series of low-paid, temporary work. People should have the right to decide for themselves which jobs to take and what they should do when it affects their long term prospects. If the state instead forces them to take a certain course, then it should also be required to compensate them if the course demanded is the wrong one.

Workfare Keeps Wages Low

By forcing people to take low-paid jobs, and making this a threat to force other workers also to take jobs that pay less than they would otherwise take, workfare leads to lower wages. The Labour Party in the UK declared that it was in favour of a ‘national living wage’ above the minimum. However, it then contradicted this intention by stating that those performing workfare would do so at the minimum wage. The Labour party may have meant this to stop those on workfare competing with those in paid employment, though MPs like Liam Byrne have shown themselves to be every bit as spiteful and punitive in their treatment of the unemployed as the Tories. In any case, this policy still puts on pressure to force wages downwards.

For there to be a genuine living wage, politicians should increase and strengthen the ability of the unemployed to bargain for higher wages. It is only when workers really have an effective ability to bargain that employers are either forced to pay a living wage, or decide that the job is unnecessary and the potential productivity too low. Standing concludes from this that ‘The reality is that the utilitarian mindset does not care about the precariat’.

Workfare Labour Replaces Genuine Workers

If the jobs performed under workfare were genuine and productive, it would be unfair to workers in those jobs, and to the short-term unemployed, as the government-subsidized labourers supplied under workfare would replace existing workers, or stop them hiring other unemployed people. In 2011 Tesco collaborated with the Jobcentres to create 3,000 unpaid placements for those on workfare, who would work for the company for four weeks. Homebase and Asda were also keen to use such unpaid labour. As was Poundland, which also announced that it was taking on benefit claimants, though it denied that this would affect their existing recruiting activity. Whatever those companies said, clearly their use of cheap workfare labour was replacing paid workers and stopping the unemployed from getting permanent jobs with those companies.

Frank Zola Gets DWP To Release Names of Workfare Companies

July 30, 2016

I got this message yesterday from blog reader, Michelle, with a link attached:

Hi Dave,

Just saw this, this eve, thought you and possibly Mike would find it interesting for your data banks, quite a list! Just need to scroll down to get to the list.

Names of hosts for DWP “schemes…collectively referred to as “workfare”” – a Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions – WhatDoTheyKnow from refuted’s Tweet

Hope all is well,

This took me to the What Do They Know page,describing how Frank Zola launched several Freedom of Information Act requests to get the DWP to release the names of the companies participating in the workfare scheme. Like Mike with the DWP and the figures for the number of people dying after being declared ‘fit for work’ by Atos, Mr Zola had to struggle, and was faced with repeated denials, against which he appealed.

He was successful, and got a full list of the companies employing labour from the workfare scheme. They are

NAMES OF PLACEMENT PROVIDERS FOR MWA DURING THE REQUESTED PERIOD
African Childrens Fund
Abacus Children’s Wear
ABCAL
Ability
Ace of Clubs Charity Shop
Acorns
Action for Disability
Action Housing
Active Community Team
Advocacy Support
Afro Caribbean Centre
Age Concern
Age UK
Agnew Community Centre
Air Ambulance
Aire Valley Recycling Ltd
Airedale Computers,
Al-Khair Foundation
All Aboard
Allied Healthcare
Almadene Care Home
AMF Torquay Bowling Alley
Amicus Horizon Housing Association
Animal Krackers
ARAS German Shepherd Inn
ARC
Archer Project
Arthritis Research UK
Arthur Rank
Arts Factory
ASAN
Asda
Asha Charity Shop
Ashgate Hospice
Aspire Community Enterprise Ltd
Auchinleck Talbot F.C.
Autism Plus
Aylestone Park Boys Football Club
Babygear
Back2Earth
Bangladesh People
Bangladeshi ass sangag centre
Barnardos
Basic Life Charity
B’Dwe
Beaumaris Hostel

Bedfordshire Education Academy
Belgrave Hall Museum
Bernicia Group (Social housing provider)
BHF
Blaby & Whetstone Boys Club
Blue Cross
Bluebell Wood
Bookers
Boots
Botanical Gardens
Bottle Rescue Aireworth Mill
BR Environmental
Bradford Autism Centre
Bradford Community repaint
Breaking Free
Brian Jackson House
Briardale Community Centre
Bright House
Brighton and hove wood recycling
Britannia College
British Heart Foundation
British Red Cross
British Waterways
Brockhurst Community Centre
Bryncynon Strategy
Bryncynon Strategy
Butterwick Hospice
Cancer Research
Cancer Uk
Capability Scotland
Care & Repair
Carers Centre
Caribbean Centre
Caribbean Restaurant (Streatham)
Carlisle Park
Carr Vale Allotments
Cash Convertors
Castle Gresley Community Centre
Cat Haven
Cats Protection League
Cauwood day services
CCA Furniture Outlet
Cerebal Palsey Care
Changing Lives in Clevedon
chapletown youth community centre
Chesterfield FC Community Trust
Chestnut Tree House Shop

Children in Distress
Children Scrapstore Reuse Centre
Children Trust
Childrens Society
Chopsticks North Yorkshire
Circulate
Citizen Advice Bureau
Claire House
Clic Sargent
Comfort Kids
Community Association – Trefechan
Community Re-Paint
Community Resource Centre
Community Voice
Complete Professional Care
Compton Hospice
Congburn Nurseries
Cooke Computers
Cooke E – Learning Foundation
Co-op
Corby Boating Lake
Cornerstone
Cornwall Hospice Care
County Durham Furniture Help Scheme
Croydon animal samaritans
CSV Media
Cusworth Hall
CVS Furniture
Dan’s Den Colwyn Bay
Dapp UK
DC Cleaning
Deans
Debra
Demzela
Derbyshire Timber Scheme
DHL
Dial Intake
Didcot Railyway Museum
Disabled Childrens Services
Discovery Community Cafe
Dogs Trust Glasgow
Dogsthorpe Recycling Centre
Doncaster College
Doncaster Community Centre
Dorothy House Hospice
Dorset Reclaim
Dovehouse Hospice Shop
Dragon Bands

Durham Wildlife Trust
E Waste Solutions
Earl Mountbatten Hospice
East Anglia Childrens Hospice Shop
East Cleveland Wildlife Trust
East Durham Partnership
East Midlands Islamic Relief Project
East West Community Project
Ecclesbourne Valley Railway
eco Innovation Centre
Elleanor Lion Hospice
ELVON
Encephalitis society
English Landscapes
Enhanced Care Training
Enterprise UK
Environmental Resource Centre
Essex County Council
Extra care Charitable Trust
Fable
Family Support
Fara
Fare share Malmo Food Park
Featherstone Rovers
Fenland District Council
First Fruits
FN! Eastbourne
Foal Farm
Food Cycle
Fops Shop
forget me not childrens hospice
Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy
Fountain Abbey
Fox Rush Farm
FRADE
Frame
FRESCH
Fresh water christian charity
Friends of St Nicholas Fields
Furnish
Furniture for You
Furniture Project
FurnitureLink
Gateway funiture
Genesis Trust
George Thomas Hospice – Barry
Geranium Shop For The Blind
Glasgow Furniture Initative

Glen Street Play Provision
Goodwin Development Trust
Govanhill Baths Community Trust
Greenacres Animal Rescue Shop
Greenfingers
Greenscape
Greenstreams Huddersfield/ environmental alliance
Grimsby District Health care charity
Ground Work
Hadston House
Happy Staffie
Harlington Hospice
Hart Wildlife Rescue
Hartlepool Council
Hartlepool Hospice
Hartlepool Prop (Mental Health)
Hartlepool Trust Opening Doors
Hastings & Bexhill Wood Recycling Project
Havens Childrens Hospice Shop
Havering Country Park
headway
Healthy Living Centre
Hebburn Community Centre
Help the Aged
helping hands
High Beech Care Home
High Wycombe Central Aid
Hillam Nurseries
Hinsley Hall Headingley
Hobbit Hotel
Holmescarr Community Centre
Home Start
Homemakers
Hope central
Hospice of hope
Hounslow Community Transport Furniture Project
Hull Animal Welfare Trust Hull
Humanity at Heart
I Trust
Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO)
Intraining Employers
Ipswich Furniture Project
Iranian Association
Islamic Relief
Jacabs Well Care Center
Jesus Army Centre
JHP
Julian House Charity Shop

K.T. Performing Arts
Kagyu Samye Dzong London
Keech Hospice Care Shop
Keighley & District Disabled
Kier Services – Corby
Kilbryde Hospice
Killie Can Cycle
Kingston Community Furniture Project
Kiveton Park & Wales Community Development Trust
LAMH
Leeds & Moortown Furniture Store
Leicester City Council
Leicester Riders
Leicester Shopmobility
Leicestershire Aids Support Services
Leicestershire Cares
Lifework
Lighthouse
Linacre Reservoir
London Borough of Havering
London College of Engineering & Management Woolwich
Longley Organised Community Association
Lyme Trust
Lynemouth Resource Centre
Mackworth Comm. Charity Shop
Making a Difference
Marie Curie
Mark2 (marc)
Martin House Hospice
Mary Stevens Hospice
Matalan
Matchbox
Matthew25 Mission
Mayflower Sanctuary
MDJ Lightbrothers
Meadow Well Connected
MEC
Mental Health Support
Midland Railway Trust
MIND
Miners Welfare community centre
Mistley Place Park
Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal Regeneration Partnership Scheme
Moore Cleaning
Morrisons
Muslim Aid
Myton Hospice
Nandos

Naomi Hospice
National Railway Museum
National Trust
NDDT
Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council
Necessary Furniture
Neighbourhood funiture
Neterlands Dog Rescue
New Life Church
Newham Volenteers Group
Newport City Council
Nightingale House
NOAH enterprise
North East Lincs Motor Project
North London Hospice Shop
North Ormesby Community Shop
Northumberland County Council
Norwood
Old Nick Theatre
One 0 One
Open Secret
Overgate Hospice
Oxfam
Papworth Trust
Partner Shop
Paul Sartori Warehouse
Paws Animal Welfare Shop
PDSA
Pegswood Community Centre
Pennywell Community Association
Peterborough Streets
Pheonix Community Furniture
Pilgrim Hospice
Placement Furniture Project
Platform 51 Doncaster Womens Centre
Playworks
Plymouth Food Bank
Plymouth Play Association
Plymouth Volunteer Centre
Pound stretcher
POW Shop
Powys Animal Welfare Shop
PPE Paving
Preen Community Interest Company
Primrose
PRINCE & PRINCESS OF WALES
Prince of Wales Sherburn in elmet
Princess Trust
Queen Elizabeth Foundation

Queens Walk Community
Queensland Multi-Media Arts Centre
Rainbow Centre
Rainbows End Burngreave
Real Time Music
Recycling unlimited
Red Cross
Refurnish
Regenerate Community Enterprise
Remploy
Restore
Rhyl Adventure Playground Association
Right Time Foundation
RNID
Rochford Council
Rosalie Ryrie Foundation
Rosliston Foresty
Royal Society for Blind.
Royal Wotton Bassett Town Council
RSPB
RSPCA
Rudenotto
Rudyard Lake
S & S Services
Saffcare
Sainsburys
Salvation Army
Santosh Community Centre
Sara
Save the children
Savera Resource Centre
Scallywags
Scarborough Council
SCD Fabrications
School of English Studies
Scope
Scottish Cancer Support
Scottish International Relief
Scunthorpe Central Community Centre
Seagull Recycling
Seahouses Development Trust
Second Chance
Second Opportunities
Sedgemoor Furniture Store
Sense
Sesku Acadamy Centre
Shaw Trust
Sheffield Reclamation Ltd – Reclaim

Shelter
Shooting Stars
Shopmobility & Community Transport – Access
Slough Furniture Project
Smythe
Sneyd Green
Somali Community Parents Association
Somerfields
Somerset Wood Re-Cycling
South Ayrshire Council
South Bucks Hospice Warehouse
South Wales Boarders Museum
Southend United Football Club
Spaghetti House
Spitafields Crypt Trust
Splash fit
St Barnabas
St Catherines Hospice Trading
St Chads Community Centre
St Clare’s Hospice
St Davids Foundation
St Elizabeth Hospice Charity Shop
St Francis Hospice Shops Ltd
St Gemma’s Hospice
St Georges Crypt
St Giles
St Helens House
St Hughs Community Centre
St Lukes Hospice
St Margarets Hospice Scotland
St Oswald’s Hospice
St Peters Church
St Peters Hospice
St Raphaels hospice
St Vincents
St. Catherines Hospice
St.Theresa’s Charity Shop
Stages Café
Stannah Stair Lifts
Stef’s Farm (Education Farm)
Step Forward
Stocking Farm Healthy Living Centre ( Sure Start)
Stockton Council
Stone Pillow
STROKECARE
Strood Community Project
Strut Lincoln
Sudbury Town Council

Sue Ryder
Sunderland Community Furniture
Sunderland North Community Business Centre
Superdrug
Swindon 105.5
Sycamore Lodge
sydney bridge furniture shop
Sypha
T&M Kiddy’s Kingdom
Tara Handicrafts
Teamwork
Teesside Hospice
Tendring Furniture Scheme
Tendring Reuse & Employment Enterprise
Tenovus
Tesco
Thames Hospicecare
Thames Valley Hospice
Thanet District Council
The Ark Shop
The Art Organisation
The Charity Shop
The Childrens Society
The Childrens trust
The Crossing
The Good Neighbour Project
The Greenhouse
The Harrow Club
The Hinge Centre Ltd
The Isabella Community Centre
The Island Partnership
The Kiln Cafe
The learning community
The Linskill Centre
The Listening Company
The Octagon Centre Hull
The Old Manor House Riding Stables
The Princess Alice Hospice
The Range
The Reuse Centre
The Rising Sun Art Centre
The Rock Foundation Ice House
The Shores Centre
The Spurriergate Centre
The Undercliffe cemetary charity
The Vine Project
The Welcoming Project
The Woodworks (Genesis Trust)

Think 3E,
Thirsk Clock
Thurrock Council
Thurrock Reuse Partnership (TRUP)
TLC
TooGoodtoWaste
Top Draw
Traid
Trinity Furniture Store
Troed Y Rhiw Day Project
True Volunteer Foundation
Tukes
Twice as Nice Furniture Project
Twirls and Curls
Ty Hafan
Tylorstown Communities First
United Churches Healing Ministry
United Play Day Centre
Unity in the Community
UNMAH
Untapped Resource
Urban Recycling
Vale of Aylesbury Vineyard Church Project
Vista Blind
Walpole Water Gardens
Walsall Hospice
Wandsworth Oasis trading Company Limited
Wat Tyler Centre
WEC
Weldmar
Well Cafe
Wellgate Community Farm
Wellingborough District Hindu Centre
Western Mill Cemetary
WH Smith
Wheelbase
Whitby Council
Wildlife Trust
Wilkinsons
Willen Care Furniture Shop
Willington Community Resource Centre
Windhill Furniture Store Shipley
Woking Community Furniture Project
Womens Aid
Womens Centre
Woodlands Camp
Worsbrough Mill & County Park
Xgames
YMCA

York Archaeological Trust
York Bike Rescue
York Carers centre
Yorkshire Trust
Yozz Yard
Zest
Zues Gym

Mr Zola’s correspondence with the DWP and his attempts to get this information out of them can be read at the What Do They Know page at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/names_of_hosts_for_dwp_schemesco

The list can be read as an attachment to the page at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/348484/response/845583/attach/html/3/326%202012%20Info.pdf.html

This is important. Workfare is one of the most exploitative of the New Labour/ Tory welfare reforms. It was taken over from the American Democrat party under Bill Clinton, who in turn got it from the Republicans. Before Tony Blair introduced it, it was a Tory idea. It’s supposed to help get the long term unemployed back into work. In practice, it does no such thing. Those completing workfare sessions aren’t taken afterwards by the companies for whom they laboured. They just return to the dole queue. New Labour launched the scheme with great fanfare in the 1990s as part of their ‘New Deal’, a name that deliberately harked back to Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s, and the work programmes that inaugurated. In some ways, it’s similar to the various British attempts to launch voluntary work scheme during the Great Depression, and similar schemes which operated in Weimar Germany, before it was expanded into the Reichsarbeitsdienst, a compulsory programme of voluntary work launched by the Nazis.

The Republicans and Conservatives embraced workfare not as way of getting people into work, but as way of getting people to work for their unemployment benefit. It’s part of the moralistic attack of anyone getting ‘something for nothing’, even if that ‘something’ is just a pittance to allow them to survive, and quite frankly they’d rather have a paying job.

And rather than getting people into paid employment, it’s a way of supplying cheap labour to firms, that really don’t need it. Like the supermarket chains, with their bloated profits. Bloggers against workfare like Johnny Void have pointed out how punitive the system is. He, and many others, including myself, have compared it to slavery, and under certain circumstances that comparison is literally true. If you are sanctioned so that you can’t receive benefit, you are still required to perform workfare if the Jobcentre tells you to. It’s a neoliberal form of forced labour, and very similar to the way the NKVD used to arrest particular groups of workers to fulfil the demands for cheap labour by the heads of companies under Stalin, when the USSR industrialised in the 1930s.

Johnny Void on his blog reported the repeated attempts of activists to get the DWP to reveal the names of the companies participating in the scheme. This was withheld for a very long time, on the grounds that if they were released, pressure would be placed on these companies to withdraw from the scheme, and it would fail. I’ve no doubt that some of the companies and charities listed here no doubt feel that they are being public spirited and doing something positive for the unemployed in assisting the government. They aren’t. They are merely perpetuating a vicious, exploitative system, and should end their connection with it as soon as possible.

Books against Austerity and Corporate Power in Parliament

July 23, 2016

Looking round Waterstone’s earlier in the day yesterday, I found a couple of books written against two of the leading political problems. One was Austerity, by Florian Schui. I found this in the business section. Written by an economist, the blurb on the back states that it shows through numerous examples why austerity doesn’t work, and how it is alien to capitalism. I didn’t buy it, as I’ve already got a number of books here I need read about the government’s failing economic policies and their cruel, mendacious and vicious attacks on the welfare state. I can’t therefore make any comments about it, except that a number of economists have repeatedly made the same point about austerity not working. Indeed, Basu and Stuckler make this point very early on in their The Body Economy: Why Austerity Kills. As for austerity being alien to capitalism, that is very much a novel viewpoint, as the response of the capitalists to recession has always been to demand cuts in wages and welfare spending, despite the fact that this harms the economy. This has also been repeatedly pointed out by economists and politicians like F.D. Roosevelt, Keynes and Tony Crosland. Crosland believed that the captains of industry should support the welfare state, as by giving workers extra money, the workers in turn supported industry through purchasing their products. Roosevelt made the same point when he introduced his very limited welfare reforms under the New Deal. But this is clearly a message the self-professed defenders of capitalism don’t want to hear, who would rather have the workers ground under food and placed in mass poverty, than given freedom, dignity, and greater purchasing power.

The other book was in the ‘new books’ section. This was entitled Parliament Inc. I’ve forgotten who it’s by, but it’s about how MPs are no longer working to represent us, but for the corporations, who fund their parties, supply staff and research experts, and offer them lucrative jobs afterwards through the revolving door. George Monbiot wrote something very similar a while ago in Corporate State, and Private Eye has been documenting the corporate corruption of politics for a very long time. Nevertheless, corporate power against the interests of the people politicians are supposed to represent has become a particularly acute issue over the past few years. One California businessman, who was actually a conservative, put out an internet petition to have members of Congress wear corporate logos on their jackets, where they had been sponsored by companies, rather than get their funding from ordinary people or their party. The corporate power of Wall Street, amongst others, is why the Democrat party dumped Bernie Sanders in favour of Shrillary through the votes of the ‘superdelegates’. It’s also very probably behind much of the New Labour attempts to oust Corbyn. Corbyn’s a radical, who threatens to end neoliberalism. And Blair and New Labour had a very cosy relationship with big business and corporate power. And hence the virulent denunciations of Jeremy Corbyn and his followers as Trotskyite hippies by the like of John Spellar.

I don’t think these books and their authors are isolated voices either. I think as time goes on, more and more authors, journalists and economists will start attacking neoliberalism and corporate power, as it becomes increasingly obvious that neoliberal economics aren’t working. And neither, thanks to the corporations, is parliament.

John Strachey on Using Welfare Spending to Break Capital’s Control of Working People

July 12, 2016

Strachey Socialism pic

Yesterday I put up John Strachey’s six point programme for a radical Socialist reform of the economy from his 1940 book, A Programme for Progress (London: Victor Gollancz). In the same book, Strachey makes the point that spending money on welfare services and public works is, contra to the Tories and classical economists, not wasteful. He then goes on to make the point that the state, by giving welfare provision to workers in the form of pensions and unemployment benefits, breaks the absolute grip of the employers over them. He writes

Welfare Spending Is Not Wasteful

Before going on to the underlying theory of the function of money in such a society as ours, it is necessary to establish that this is no less true of our third, last, and most startling plank – the proposal of giving people newly created money as a remedy for unemployment. For there is a very strong prejudice in our minds which almost compels us to suppose that giving away money for nothing in this way (by way, say, of old age pensions or children’s allowances) is a wild proceeding; that a government which did that would be for instance, far more profligate than on which spent a like sum on public works; that to give money away is sheer waste; that such a government would “get nothing for its money”. But this is not the case. The truth is that a decision to give people money is a decision to have more consumers’ goods and services produced, while the expenditure of money on a public works programme is a decision to have more means of production produced. That is the difference.

All talk of it being waste and squandering to give otherwise destitute or severely straitened people money with which to buy consumers’ goods is nonsense. The money will circulate through the system at least as well if it is put in at this point as it will if it is put in at the means of production end. If it is given to the ultimate consumers, it will flow first into the hands of the producers of consumers’ good, next to the producers of producers’ goods, next to the banks, and finally back to the Government itself, just as surely as if it were spent on building new factories in the most orthodox manner. It is necessary to insist up this point, for our minds have been so condition that we almost all tend to believe that money given, say, to the unemployed, or the old, is spent and gone, used up once and for all-if not actually wasted-in a sense in which money invested (a much more respectable word than spent)in a new factory, or in public works, especially if they are of an income-producing type, is not.

But there is not a word of truth in it. The one sum of money is spent on consumers’ goods, the other and producers’ goods. And that is all the difference there. (pp. 93-4).

This is a point which the Keynsian economists cited by Mike over at Vox Political, and by the Angry Yorkshireman, have been making time and again. It’s entirely correct, and was one of the reasons Roosevelt’s New Deal was so successful.

Breaking the Employers’ Grip

Of the effect of welfare spending breaking the stranglehold employers have over working people, Strachey writes

Is it, then, mere intellectual error which makes the dominant, ruling, financial section of the capitalist class so vehemently oppose all policies of this sort for re-employing the factors of production? We shall find, on the contrary, there is quite a rational explanation of their opposition. We have seen that private enterprise knows no way of getting extra money into the hands of the ultimate consumers except by employing them on the production of producers’ goods, or of durable goods such as houses. But now look at the proposition from another standpoint. From the point of view of the ultimate consumers, this means that they cannot live until they can get some private entrepreneur to employ them. It expresses, in a word, the dependence of the people of a capitalist society upon those who own the means of production. It expresses the monopoly of economic power which rests in the hands of these owners. It is precisely because all those who do not own, and have no independent access to the means of production cannot get money into their hands in any other way than by selling their ability to labour, that the owners are enabled to dictate the terms of sale of labour power. it is this which enables them to reap for themselves a rich harvest of the fruits of the labour of others. But what if a new channel is dug by which money can come into the hands of the mass of the population without their having to sell their ability to labour to the employers? To the extent that this is done the employer’s hold over the population is weakened; his power to dictate the terms of employment, rates of wages, hours of work, etc., is qualified. For the worker can now live without him. Nor is there the least doubt of the immediate, strong and practical effect which the provision of decent scales of old age pensions, children’s allowances, and any other distributions of purchasing power will have upon the bargaining power of the wage-earners. The real reason, then, which the great capitalists, and those who consciously or unconsciously speak for them, will always feel that direct distributions of money to the ultimate consumers are a grossly unsound measure, is that it weakens the absolute character of their control over the working population. The capitalists are bound to object that if you give the workers money for anything except work in private profit-making industry, they will get “out of hand”. And so they will; they will get out of their employer’s hand. Surely no democrat will deplore this? But if the employer’s capacity to impose dictatorially the obligation to work upon the rest of the population is ended, it will ultimately be necessary for society to devise a democratic form of self-discipline by which the natural obligation to labour is enforced by society itself.

Experience tends to show, however, that this necessity is far more remote than might be supposed. the conservative’s nightmare that if, for instance, the Government paid really adequate relief to all the unemployed, no one would come to work the next day, is grotesquely incorrect- though no doubt the strengthening of the bargaining position of the workers which would result would be remarkable. Moreover, it is perfectly possible to arrange the giving of money to the ultimate cons8umers in such a way that any tendency to enable the slacker to live without working is reduced to a minimum. For the money can be given to sections of the population who are not required to work in any case. The obvious sections are the old or the very young. Really adequate old age pensions, or children’s allowances, paid out of newly created money, are a most valuable part of a programme for re-employing the factors of production in the conditions of economic stagnation which have recently obtained in contemporary Britain and America. (pp. 98-100).

And this is what the Tories do indeed fear, and have done. One of the first things Thatcher did was to cut the entitlement of striking workers to social security benefit. It’s why they have been so hard on the unemployed, and replaced unemployment benefit with ‘Jobseekers allowance’. And it underpins the whole of workfare and the sanctions system. It is part of keeping a cowed, powerless workforce desperate to accept any job, no matter how tenuous and poorly paid. And it needs to stop. Now.

John Strachey’s Socialist Programme

July 11, 2016

Strachey Socialism pic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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