Posts Tagged ‘New Deal’

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.

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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.

The Nazis and Industrial Autonomy

March 31, 2016

Nazi Germany was a centrally planned economy. This meant that, as in the Soviet Union, business served the state. There was a central planning bureaucracy, which organised and directed industrial production, right down to dictating to employers how many employees they should take from the labour exchanges. Unlike the Soviet Union, this was all done through private, not state-owned, industry. The Nazis furthermore claimed to value private enterprise and initiative amongst business leaders, and Nazi rhetoric attacked state bureaucracy in a manner very similar to the denunciation of state planning and bureaucracy by Thatcherite Neo-liberal free-marketeers.

Robert A. Brady also tackles this in his The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism. He writes

Similar to the ideas of Gerard Swope-one of the spiritual fathers of the N.R.A.- the United States Chamber of Commerce, and other similar spokesmen for “self-government in industry,” “the ideal held up to us by The Leader is a new system of self-administration with the emphasis laid on the responsibility of every individual.” In this theory, business men must be allowed so to organise themselves as to avoid the “bureaucracy” assumed to be inherent in state control and to give free play to “ethical” private initiative in business.

“We cannot dispense with the economic willing of individual business leaders and workers,” Schacht said. To do so, he held, would be to destroy the “creative power” of the people. The function of business enterprise is to release this creative power on behalf of the nation.” Under no circumstances,” he continued, “shall we destroy the multifarious individual character of our economic system. For all time to come we shall need the independent employer who for better or worse, is connected with his enterprise.” In other words, business men in the new Germany are to be given free reign to function as before, except now they must be “honest” in the sense that they must not resort to “unfair” tactics to achieve corporate ends. (pp. 265-6).

Likewise as with the N.R.A., the new German economic organisations are supposed not to engage themselves with “economic planning,” since, according to the Nazis, planning can only lead to “bureaucratisation.” “Free economy, private initiative, and personal responsibility are not demands of employers on us, but our demands on the employers,” as a Nazi party spokesman expressed it. But this is only to assert that the totalitarian powers of the new state can and will be used to see that no one escapes whatever the majority of the more powerful German businessmen decided to do. Membership is compulsory in the new “self-administered” organisations. Nobody is to be allowed to stay outside and spoil the game. All must follow where they are “led” by the state-recognised spokesmen for their respective groups. (pp. 266-7).

In fact, as I’ve blogged about before, German industry did form a kind of partnership with the Nazis, but it was always fragile and could be dissolved at any time, such as later in the 1930s when the party began a series of four-year plans. Nevertheless, in theory at least, the Nazis were not hostile to private industry, and claimed to protect personal responsibility and entrepreneurial initiative, which are still the cornerstones of the neo-liberal economic mindset.

Chris Hedges on the Pathology of the Super Rich

January 20, 2016

I’ve written a number of pieces about the psychology of the rich, and how they seem driven by a deep psychological desire to degrade, humiliate and harm those less fortunate than themselves. In this video below, the American Socialist journalist Chris Hedges and the programme’s host, Paul Jay, discuss that same issue, which they term the pathology of the super rich. The video comes from the TV series Reality Asserts Itself, which seems to be partly funded through donations from the public, for which Jay appeals at the end.

The programme begins by looking back to a previous programme, in which Hedges and Jay discussed the weakness of the modern Socialist and labour movement in America. They stated that part of this was its failure to articulate a viable Socialist vision of an alternative to the corporate system. They go on to suggest that one of the gravest weaknesses in this lack of vision was the inability to grasp the pathology of the rich. They talk about how American society magnifies and practically deifies the rich, and state that we need to recover the language of class warfare. We need to reject the lie, repeated by Obama, that if we work hard enough and study hard enough we can be one of them. The issue isn’t intelligence. The present economic mess was created by some of the most intelligent, best educated people in the country. It’s greed.

Hedges states that his hatred of authority and the elite comes from his own experience of winning a scholarship to an elite school. He’s middle class, but part of his family were lower working class. One of his grandfathers even at times lived in a trailer. The rich have the best education, but its aim is teaching them how to rule. He states that if you’re poor, you only get one chance to make it. The rich are presented with multiply chances. He cites George Bush, and his history of failure, and how, after he managed to get an academic career despite poor grades, he finally got a job at 40: running the country. There is a small, tight elite circle which protects itself and promotes mediocrity. We are now utterly powerless before them, because the oligarchic elite own the broadcasters and the press.

In their world, everyone is there to serve them. When Hedges was at school, he saw how his friends, themselves only 11-12 years old, spoke to adults, ordering around their servants and parents’ employees. He talks about the fabled quip of Hemingway to Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had said ‘The rich aren’t like us.’ To which Hemingway replied, ‘No, they’re richer’. But this was an instance where Hemingway was wrong, and Fitzgerald right. And Fitzgerald saw it, as he himself had made his way up from the mid-West and saw how decadent and corrupt the elite were. Hedges states that when you have their vast amounts of money, you see people as disposable, even friends and family, and now the citizens, who are required to fight in wars. They live in a bubble where only working class people they see are those, who work for them. They don’t even fly on commercial jets. They’re thus extremely out of touch, and retreat even further from everyone else into enclaves like Versailles under Louis XIV and the Forbidden City under the Chinese emperors. They will continue to extract more and more from society, because they have no idea of the harm they’re causing.

Hedges talks about the Occupy Movement, and the impoverishment caused by student debts that now can never be repaid, which students facing higher interest rates than if they’d gone to a bank. Half of America is officially on or below the poverty line. Yet the government is helping Goldman Sacks by buying junk bonds, which are so worthless they’ll eventually wreck the economy. The government’s response, on behalf of the rich, is to cut unemployment benefits and food stamps and close the Headstart programme. Some of the children of the super rich are waking up to the reality, and joining the Occupy movement, but it’s a tiny minority.

The two also discuss Gore Vidal’s comments about the amorality of the super rich. They state that he should know, both from his own life and the world he moved in. Hedges states that when he was at the boarding school, most of the fathers actually had very little contact with their sons. But they would turn up in their cars, sometimes with their mistresses, and their staff photographers to show them playing happily with their sons. He states that there’s a type of racism there, in that while they were happy to create this illusion for their own family, they treated the working class very differently. They believed that they should have to send their sons to fight foreign wars. Jay makes a comparison with the British enslavement of the Irish, and states that this shows you don’t have to be Black to be enslaved.

Apart from hating the working class, the rich also have a great disdain for the middle class, which Hedges himself found quite shocking, himself coming from a middle class background. The rich on their part have a very sophisticated PR machine, and polish their image with very well-publicised acts of philanthropy, while the reality behind the scenes is very different. Hedges talks about Karl Marx’s statement that the dominant ideology is really the idealisation of existing class and economic relationships. The free market ideology now dominant across America is just a very thin rationale for the elite’s greed. This is now taught right across the country, but is just used to justify the hoarding of immense wealth by the elite. The lie of globalisation – that it will give further prosperity to the middle class, give proper, just remuneration to the working class and lift the people’s of the Developing World out of poverty is a lie that has already been exposed multiple times. This ideology and the intellectual class serve the system. Those economists, who don’t teach the lie, don’t get jobs.

He talks about how the corporate system is ‘socialism for the ruling class’. The corporations loot the treasury, but demand to be bailed out by the taxpayer. There is a complete disconnection between language and reality, as America has been robbed of the very language and discourse to attack this process, even though the corporations are predators on the taxpayer’s money. The bonds now being bought up by the US government include mortgages for foreclosed properties. On paper these are worth perhaps as much as $600,000, but they would need a lot of work to realise that amount due to damage to their electrical systems and flooding.

Hedges and Jay also talk about how, although America now thinks of itself as a centre-right country politically, this wasn’t always the case. Before the Second World War there was a proper liberal, working class movement and debate in the country about what kind of society it would be. This was destroyed through McCarthyism and the House Committee into Un-American Activities. And it was very successful, as Hedges himself has documented in The Death of the Liberal Class. Hedges talks about how he states in one of his books that Karl Marx was right, and that the class struggle does define most of human history. And yet one cannot discuss this on any other American channel. If you did so, you’d be accused of being un-American. Hedges states that the class struggle is at the heart of American corporatism, and that if he were head of a Wall Street company, he would only employ Marxian economists as they understand that capitalism is all about exploitation.

Hedges then states that America is the most ‘illusioned’ society on the planet. The system is such that it whitewashes and humanises even idiots like Donald Trump to disguise what they’re doing to us. The corporations spend an immense amount – billions upon billions – on PR. From their publicity, you’d think BP were Greenpeace, despite the devastation they’ve cause in the Gulf of Mexico, including the poisoning of the fish and seafood, which is then sold to American consumers. No broadcaster, however, is going to make a documentary on this because the corporate elite own the broadcasters.

The only choice in Hedges’ view is go back to Aristotle, and revolt, as the mechanisms for incremental change are no longer functioning. FDR’s New Deal for a time acted as a safety valve, but his has been destroyed. Change for the working and middle classes can’t be done through the existing political parties or the courts. What is needed is to create new parties and mass movements. The elite can’t even stop the dangerous speculation that threatens their own prosperity. He states that the people, who run Wall Street know that another, worse collapse is coming, and are just intent on stealing as much as they can before they run out the door. The head of the private healthcare company, Universal Healthcare, last year (2013) made over $100 million. All the elite are interested in is amassing their tiny empires.

Hedges states that this is symptomatic of a dying civilisation. He quotes Marx on the psychology of the super rich. When asked what it was, Marx said, ‘Apres moi, le deluge’ – ‘After me, the floods’. They know society is going to be toast, and are just concerned to loot as much as they can before it goes under. Then they think they can retreat to their gated communities, and survive. Well, they might live a little longer than everyone else, but even that’s debatable to the damage to the Earth’s ecosystem and massive climate change. The ecological harm may already be too much to avert the extinction of the human race.

Hedges views are a little too extreme for me. I don’t think the opportunities for resistance within the system are already too far gone. Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn over here offer some hope of effecting radical change within the system. But apart from that, I agree with just about everything he said. The rich are rapacious and completely uncontrolled, as you can see from the behaviour of Cameron, Osborne, IDS and the rest of the Tories.

But listen to Hedges yourself, in the video below.

Again from 2011: Private Eye on the Failure of A4E

January 21, 2015

I’ve published a number of pieces from Private Eye over the last few days detailing the colossal failure one of the government’s workfare providers, A4E. They were massively incompetent from the start, and the National Audit Office was also very much aware that the welfare-to-work scheme was so flawed that it was bound to fail, and need bailing out. Here’s another piece from the Eye from four years ago providing more information on the company’s staggering ineptitude.

Yob Creation
Working Beef

With the riots highlighting the urgent need for job opportunities for Britain’s disaffected youth, who can solve Britain’s unemployment crisis? Recent inspections by Ofsted suggest that benefit-busting private firm A4E, one of the government’s favourite welfare-to-work outfits, is not the answer.

Since the Eye first exposed A4E’s shortcomings last autumn (Eyes 1271 & 1272), the firm has been awarded five multi-million-pound contracts to run pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme, covering East London, the East Midlands, South Yorkshire, the North West and South East. But three Ofsted inspection reports on A4E schemes are far from encouraging.

The reports rate performance on a scale of one to four; but A4E doesn’t score above a “3” or “satisfactory”. In other words, the company earning millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to help the jobless was never found to be “good”, let alone “outstanding”. Even when an inspection report into A4E’s management of 8,795 apprenticeships and work-based trainees on the “Train to Gain” scheme was said to be “satisfactory” overall, the trainees still often failed. The inspectors said: “Too many learners still do not complete their programme within the agreed time. The overall apprenticeship success rates have improved slightly over the last three years but are still low. To many learners do not complete their apprenticeship on time. Advanced apprenticeship success rates have declined.”

A re-inspection last year of A4E’s “New Deal” job-finding scheme in Northumberland found it had improved from “unsatisfactory” to “satisfactory”, but this still left many of the unemployed in difficulty. “A4E’s job entry rate increased slightly in 2009/10 but at 26 percent remains below contractual targets,” said the inspectors.

A4E’s work on a “Pathways” scheme in Leeds designed to help 7,000 disabled people on incapacity benefit was also found to be “satisfactory” even though the unemployed were still let down. “Outcomes for participants are inadequate,” found the inspectors, who said A4E’s job-finding skills were “unsatisfactory”.

Given the underwhelming results, why does the government put so much faith in busted benefit-busters like A4E.

In other words, if A4E was a school, it would almost certainly be placed in special measures, along with much media hoo-ha about declining educational standards. It isn’t, but I suspect the Eye’s last question was rhetorical. My guess is that they’re getting the contracts, despite their record of what can only be described as abject failure, because they are Tory donors, sponsoring events and providing support to the particular politicians.

Thomas Spence on the Working Class as the Creators of Prosperity

March 1, 2014

Spence Book Cover

Back in the 1980s Margaret Thatcher and the New Right declared that the entrepreneurs, businessmen and the financiers were the ‘Creators of Wealth’. This is another appropriation by the right of the claims and slogans of the left. Previously, the term ‘Creators of Wealth’ was used by the Left, chiefly Marxists, to refer to the working class. There was, for example, the Communist slogan, ‘All wealth to the creators of wealth!’ promising the people the true value of their products, if not exactly power. That was to be held exclusively by the Communist party as the ‘vanguard of the proletariat’.

The attitude that the working class are the creators of wealth ultimately goes back to the idea of classical economist, like David Ricardo, that the value of a product was determined by the amount of labour taken to produce it. The classical economists themselves followed Adam Smith in advocating free trade. The early radicals built on this demand more political rights and economic reforms for the working classes – the ‘labouring poor’.

The late 18th and very early 19th century radical, Thomas Spence, strongly argued that all of Britain’s prosperity ultimately rested, not with the landlords and aristocracy, but with the labourers and working people, who physically worked the soil and made industrial products. He urged that Britain should be transformed into a federation of autonomous communes, in which all the inhabitants, including women and children, should govern, and parish lands taken into the collective ownership of the parish. In his pamphlet, The Rights of Infants, he defended this system of the communal ownership of land against the view of the great contemporary revolutionary, Tom Paine, that the people, who worked the land really only had only a claim to a tenth of it. Spence rebutted this in the following passage

BUT stop, don’t let us reckon without our host; for Mr Paine will object to such an equal distribution of the rents. For says he, in his Agrarian Justice, the public can claim but a Tenth Part of the value of the landed property as it now exists, with its vast improvements of cultivation and building. But why are we put off now with a Tenth Share? Because, says Mr. Paine, it has so improved in the hands of private proprietors as to be of ten times the value it was of in its natural state. but may we not ask who improved the land? Did the proprietors alone work and toil at this improvement? And did we labourers and our forefathers stand, like Indians and Hottentots, idle spectators of so much public-spirited industry? I suppose not. Nay, on the contrary, it is evident to the most superficial enquirer that the labouring classes ought principally to be thanked for every improvement.

Indeed, if there had never been any slaves, any vassals, or any day-labourers employed in building and tillage, then the proprietors might have boasted of having themselves created all this gay scene of things. But the case alters amazingly, when we consider that the earth has been cultivated either by slaves, compelled, like beasts, to labour, or by the indigent objects whom they first exclude from a share in the soil, that want may compel them to see their labour for daily bread. In short, the great may as well boast of fighting their battles as of cultivating the earth.

The toil of the labouring classes first produces provisions, and then the demand of their families creates a market for them. Therefore it will be found that it is the markets made by the labouring and mechanical tribes that have improved the earth. And once take away these markets or let all the labouring people, like the Israelites, leave the country in a body and you would immediately see from what cause the country had been cultivated and so many goodly towns and villages built.

You may suppose that after the emigration of all these beggarly people, every thing would go on as well as before: that the farmer would continue to plough, and the town landlord to build as formerly. I tell you nay; for the farmer could neither proceed without labourers nor find purchasers for his corn and cattle. It would be just the same with the building landlord, for he could neither procure workmen to build nor tenants to pay him rent.

Behold then your grand, voluptuous nobility and gentry, the arch cultivators of the earth; obliged, for lack of servants, again to turn Gothic hunters like their savage forefathers. Behold their palaces, temples, and towns, smouldering into dust, and affording shelter only to wild beasts; and their boasted, cultivated fields and garden, degenerated into a howling wilderness.

Thus we see that the consumption created by the mouths and the backs of the poor despised multitude contributes to the cultivation of the earth, as well as their hands. And it is also the rents that they pay that builds the towns and not the racking building landlord. Therefore, let us not in weak comm9iseration be biased by the pretended philanthropy of the great, to the resignation of our dearest rights. And if our estates have improved in their hands, during their officious guardianship, the D-v-l than them; for it was done for their own sakes not four ours, and can be no just bar against us recovering our rights.

Rights of Infants

Now clearly you do need talented businessmen and entrepreneurs, who can set up and manage businesses. But Spence is right about the vital importance of the working classes and how they do the physical works that creates civilisation and prosperity. And this is still a vitally contested point. Obama in many ways isn’t noticeably different from many other American presidents. Despite his introduction of more state medical assistance, he still has the same very strong ties to Wall Street. This has not, however, stopped the American Conservatives viciously attacking him as a Communist. A year or so ago there was a lot of Republican American carping centred around the slogan ‘You didn’t build this!’. Reading between the lines, I got the impression that Obama had dared to state the obvious: that all the American people built their country, including those who physically laid the bricks and mortar, and not just big businessmen like Donald Trump. And that clearly touched a nerve.

The power of organised labour is still feared by the Tories over here. After all, the miners managed to beat Ted Heath, and so, when Thatcher got the chance, she destroyed the British mining industry, and organised the mass transfer of jobs from Britain to less truculent workers in the Developing World, thus devastating the British industrial base. However, even in this era of globalised markets, big business still needs the markets provided by the mass of the working and lower middle classes. There’s an interesting piece over at Another Angry Voice about this, where the Angry Yorkshireman proves that the Tories’ policy of paying low wages actually makes no sense. He points out that Henry Ford, the ferociously anti-Semitic and anti-socialist industrialist deliberately paid his workers very good wages, so that they could afford to buy more, and so stimulate business. It’s also why FDR in his New Deal introduced a limited form of state unemployment assistance. He felt that if the unemployed were able to continue buying goods, this would continue putting money into the economy and so help end recessions. This, however, isn’t good enough for the Conservatives, who would rather keep the poor in abject poverty, even if this does harm the economy, simply out of viciousness, spite and a desire to hang on to their privilege and status.

It’s about time this was challenged, and the poor started getting back their share of the nation’s wealth.

Iain-Duncan-Smith415

Ian Duncan Smith: Along with Cameron and Osborne, has a policy of spite and vindictiveness towards the poor, just preserve the government’s own social position no matter what the economic and social costs.

Alan Moore on CIA Atrocities in Central America; Brought to Light

October 2, 2013

Apart from V for Vendetta, Alan Moore has also written a number of other, overtly political comic strips. Unlike V for Vendetta, these were based very much on contemporary events rather than works of fiction set in the future. One of these was the strip, ‘Shadowplay: The Secret Team’, illustrated by another great comics veteran, Bill Sienkiewicz. With two other strips, ‘Flashpoint: The La Penca Bombing’, by Joyce Brabner, Thomas Yeats and Bill Pearson, and ’30 Years of Covert War’ by another major figure in underground comics, Paul Mavrides, this was published in the anthology graphic novel, Brought to Light, edited by Joyce Brabner and published by Eclipse Comics. The graphic novel was published on behalf of the Christic Institute, and exposed the brutality and atrocities committed by the CIA and its allies in South and Central America, such as General Pinochet, Manuel Noriega in El Salvador, and the Contras in Nicaragua. ‘Flashpoint’ is more or less a straightforward narrative retelling of one particular journalist’s discovery and coverage of the massacres and mass mutilations committed by the Contras in Nicaragua. Mavride’s ’30 Years of Covert Action’ is a two-page map showing the areas around the world in which the CIA has engaged in drug trafficking, rigging elections, assassination and other crimes.

Moore’s strip, ‘Shadowplay’ was somewhat different. It was a mordantly funny satire in which the reader also features as a framing character. Leaving a cruise ship, the reader finds a drunken, cynical American Eagle drinking in a low dockside bar. Speaking in a drawl, the Eagle then proceeds to inform the reader about the American Right’s long history of covert political subversion and support for extreme Right-wing regimes. This goes at least as far back as the 1930s, when various politicians, alarmed at Roosevelt’s New Deal, began to plot a military coup. The strip then comes up to date with the CIA Iran-Contra scandal, in which Reagan’s regime supplied arms to Iran through Hisbollah, and shifted cocaine into America to support the Contras. At last the persona of the reader, sickened, leaves the bar, only find that his ship has sailed. The last image of the reader’s upraised hand towards the departing boat.

According to Wikipedia, Brought to Light was made into a spoken word audiobook on CD, narrated by Moore himself in 1998.

Here is the address for the Wikipedia entry on Brought to Light: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brought_to_Light.

Alan Moore also gave an interview about Brought to Light, as well as the Batman graphic novel The Killing Joke, and his contribution to the anti-homophobia anthology, Aawrgh on Blather. Part I is at this address:http://www.blather.net/articles/amoore/brought-to-light1.html.
Part 2 is here: http://www.blather.net/articles/amoore/brought-to-light2.html.