Posts Tagged ‘New Labour’

‘I’ Newspaper: Hundreds of Doctors Want to Leave NHS Before Retiring

January 13, 2019

The I newspaper on Friday, 11th January 2019, carried this story, ‘Hundred of Doctors Plan to Quite NHS Before Retirement Age’ by Paul Gallagher on page 11. The article reports that hundreds of senior doctors and consults wish to leave the Health Service because they feel they are overworked. The article runs

Hundreds of senior doctors will quit the NHS before retirement age, according to new analysis.

Six out of 10 consultants say that the main reason for their intention to leave the health service before the age of 60 is the need for a better work-life balance, a survey by the British Medical Association (BMA) reveals.

Concerns about the impact of current pensions legislation is the second most important factor influencing consultants’ planned retirement age, they said. Less that 7 per cent say they expect to remain working in the NHS beyond the age of 65.

Almost 18 per cent of consultants are in the process of planning to reduce their working time even further, including a complete withdrawal from service. More than 40 per cent said they were less likely to take part in work initiatives to reduce waiting lists.

The implications of such a significant loss of skilled and specialist clinicians both on the junior staff they teach and the patients they care for is potentially disastrous for the already beleaguered health service.

Dr Rob Harwood, who chairs the BMA’s consultants’ committee, said: “Such a situation is clearly untenable. During the a deepening workforce crisis, the NHS needs its most experienced and expert doctors now more than ever. I struggle to understand how the Health Secretary can talk about increasing productivity… while allowing the NHS to be a system which perversely encourages its most experienced doctors to do less work, and, in some cases, to leave when they do not want to.”

I am not surprised that this is happening in the NHS at all. There have been very many reports over the past few years about the numbers of doctors planning to leave the health service because of overwork and other issues. And I have seen zero evidence that the government intends to tackle the problem or has any interest in solving it. Beyond the current Health Secretary publicly opening his mouth to proclaim that the government will recruit tens of thousands more doctors and other medical staff, like Tweezer did with her bold ten-year plan for the NHS last week.

Mike has already put up a piece on his blog pointing out that the government has consistently and spectacularly missed its targets for cutting waiting times and recruiting more medical staff for the NHS. He also reported that when the Health Secretary was question about how he plans to recruit more personnel, he put this off, stating it was a question for another review later. So all we have from the Tories in this issue is vague promises. Promises that aren’t going to be honoured.

It looks to me very much that all this is planned, that the government is deliberately creating conditions to encourage doctors, consultants and other medical professionals in the NHS to leave, while publicly doing their level best to give the impression that they genuinely care about the Health Service.

They don’t. Since Thatcher the Tories and New Labour have been absolutely set on running down and privatizing the NHS for the benefit of private healthcare companies like the American insurance fraudster Unum, BUPA, Virgin Healthcare, Circle Healthcare and others. Journalists and activists commenting on this attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS have forecasted that ultimately we may end up with a two-tier health service. The affluent middle class will have access to excellent care from the private sector, but only, of course, if they can pay for it. The rest of us will have worse care from an underfunded and understaffed rump NHS.

If the NHS exists at all, that is. The same observers also forecast that the Tories may well be aiming to introduce the American system of private healthcare, where those who can’t pay are treated at the emergency room. And where 45,000 people a year die because they can’t afford medical treatment and the highest cause of bankruptcies is medical bills.

I’ve seen the Tories use the same tactics to decimate another part of the NHS nearly thirty years ago under Thatcher or John Major. This was the dental service. A majority of dentists left the NHS after one or other of these two Tory prime ministers refused to increase their pay and spending on their surgeries. The result is that now most dentists are private and it’s often difficult, very difficult, to find one of that will take NHS patients.

Make no mistake: the Tories plan to do this to the rest of the NHS. But it’s being done subtly, away from public attention, which they are distracting and misleading with promises to increase NHS funding and personnel recruitment. Promises which they don’t intend to honour.

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Book on Industrial Democracy in Great Britain

January 12, 2019

Ken Coates and Anthony Topham, Industrial Democracy In Great Britain: A Book of Readings and Witnesses for Workers Control (MacGibbon & Kee, 1968).

This is another book I got through the post the other day. It’s a secondhand copy, but there may also be newer editions of the book out there. As its subtitle says, it’s a sourcebook of extracts from books, pamphlets, and magazine and newspaper articles on workers’ control, from the Syndicalists and Guild Socialists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, through the First World War, the General Strike and the interwar period, the demands for worker participation in management during the Second World War and in the industries nationalized by Clement Attlee’s 1945 Labour government. It also covers the industrial disputes of the 1950s and ’60s, including the mass mobilization of local trade unions in support of four victimized workers evicted from the homes by management and the Tories. These later extracts also include documents from the workers’ control movements amongst the bus workers and dockers, establishing works councils and laying out their structure, duties and operating procedure.

The book’s blurb reads

The issue of workers’ control in British industry is once more n the air. As a concept, as something still to be achieved, industrial democracy has a long and rich history in fields outside the usual political arenas. The newly-awakened movement that revives the wish to see workers given a voice in business affairs is, in this book, given its essential historical perspective. From the days of ‘wage-slavery’ we might at last be moving into a period of fully-responsible control of industry by those who make the wealth in this country. While this notion has generally been scoffed at – by working class Tories as much as members of the capitalist groups – there is now a formidable body of evidence and thought to give it substance and weight.

The editors’ theme is treated in four main sections: the first covers the years from 1900 to 1920, when people like Tom Mann, James Connolly, G.D.H. Cole were re-discovering ideas of syndicalism, industrial unionism, guild socialism and so on. The second traces the development of the shop stewards’ movement on the shop floors. Much of this material is especially interesting so far as the period 1941 – 45 is concerned. Section three deals with the nationalized industries’ relations to unions, and here the centre of interest lies in the relations between the unions and Herbert Morrison in the thirties and beyond. The last section deals with the re-invigorated growth of the post-war efforts to establish some form of workers’ control. It is the conviction of their editors that the movement they document so thoroughly has only just begun to develop seriously and it is therefore something that both business and political parties will have to take increasing account of. The book is both anthology and guide to one of the important issues of our time.

After the introduction, it has the following contents.

Section 1: Schools for Democrats
Chapter 1: Forerunners of the Ferment

1 Working Class Socialism: E.J.B. Allen
2. Industrial Unionism and Constructive Socialism: James Connolly
3. The Miners’ Next Step: Reform Committee of the South Wales Miners, 1912
4. Limits of Collective Bargaining: Fred Knee
5. Forging the Weapon: Tom Mann
6. The Servile State: Hilaire Belloc
7. Pluralist Doctrine: J.N. Figgis
8. The Spiritual Change: A.J. Penty
9. The Streams Merge?: M.B. Reckitt and C.E. Bechofer
10. Little Groups Spring Up: Thomas Bell

Chapter 2. Doctrines and Practice of the Guild Socialists

1.The Bondage of Wagery: S.G. Hobson and A.R. Orage
2. State and Municipal Wagery: S.G. Hobson and A.R. Orage
3. Collectivism, Syndicalism and Guilds: G.D.H. Cole
4 Industrial Sabotage: William Mellor
5 The Building Guilds: M.B. Reckitt and C.E. Bechhofer
6 Builders’ Guilds: A Second view: Raymond Postgate

Chapter 3 How Official Labour met the Guild Threat

1 Democracies of Producers: Sydney and Beatrice Webb
2 ‘… In no Utopian Spirit’: J. Ramsay MacDonald

Chapter 4 Eclipse of the Guilds and the Rise of Communism

1 In Retrospect: G.D.H. Cole
2 Revolution and Trade Union Action: J.T. Murphy
3 Action for Red Trade Unions: Third Comintern Congress, 1921

Section II: Shop Stewards and Workers’ Control; 1910-64

Chapter 1 1910-26

1 Shop Stewards in Engineering: the Forerunners: H.A. Clegg, Alan Fox, and E.F. Thompson
2 The Singer Factory: The Wobblies’ First Base: Thomas Bell
3 A Nucleus of Discontent: Henry Pelling
4 The Sheffield Shop Stewards: J.T. Murphy
5 The Workers’ Committee: J.T. Murphy
6 The Collective Contract: W. Gallacher and J. Paton
7 Politics in the Workshop Movement: G.D.H. Cole
8 The Shop Stewards’ Rules: N.S.S. & W.C.M.
9 The Dangers of Revolution: Parliamentary Debates H. of C.
10 What Happened at Leeds: the Leeds Convention 1917
11 A Shop Stewards’ Conference: Thomas Bell
12 After the War: Dr B. Pribicevic
13 An Assessment: Dr B. Pribicevic
14 Prelude to Unemployed Struggles: Wal Hannington
15 Defeat; The 1922 Lock-out: James B. Jefferys
16 Shop Stewards on the Streets: J.T. Murphy
17 T.U.C. Aims: T.U.C. Annual Report 1925
18 ‘The Death Gasp of that Pernicious Doctrine’: Beatrice Webb

Chapter 2 1935-47

1 ‘… The Shop Stewards’ Movement will Re-Appear’: G.D.H. Cole
2 Revival; The English Aircraft Strike: Tom Roberts
3 London Metal Workers and the Communists: John Mahon
4 The Communists’ Industrial Policy: CPGB 14th Congress, 1937
5 ‘… A Strong Left Current’; John Mahon
6 Shop Stewards against Government and War: National Shop-Stewards’ Conference, 1940
7 The A.E.U. and the Shop Stewards’ Movement: Wal Hannington
8 For Maximum Production: Walter Swanson and Douglas Hyde
9 Joint Production Committees: Len Powell
10 The Employers Respond: Engineering Employers’ Federation
11 How to get the Best Results: E & A.T.S.S.N.C.
12 The Purpose of the Joint Production Committees: G.S. Walpole
13 A Dissident Complaint: Anarchist Federation of Glasgow, 1945
14 The Transformation of Birmingham: Bert Williams
15 Factory Committees; Post-War Aims: J.R. Campbell
16 After the Election: Reg Birch
17 Official View of Production Committees: Industrial Relations Handbook
18 Helping the Production Drive: Communist Party of Great Britain

Chapter 3 1951-63

1 Post-war Growth of Shop Stewards in Engineering: A.T. Marsh and E.E. Coker
2 Shop-Steward Survey: H.A. Clegg, A.J. Killick and Rex Adams
3 The Causes of Strikes: Trades Union Congress
4 The Trend of Strikes: H.A. Turner
5 Shop-Stewards and Joint Consultation: B.C. Roberts
6 Joint Consultation and the Unions: Transport and General Workers’ Union
7 Strengths of Shop-Steward Organisation: H.M.S.O.
8 Activities of Shop-Stewards: H.M.S.O.
9 Local Bargaining and Wages Drift: Shirley Lerner and Judith Marquand
10 The Motor Vehicle Industrial Group and Shop-Stewards’ Combine Committees: Shirley Lerner and Judith Marquand
11. Ford Management’s view of Management: H.M.S.O.
12. The Bata Story: Malcolm MacEwen
13 Fight against Redundancy: Harry Finch
14 How They Work the Trick: Ford Shop Stewards
15 I work at Fords: Brian Jefferys
16 The Origins of Fawley: Allan Flanders
17 Controlling the Urge to Control: Tony Topham

Section III: Industrial Democracy and Nationalization

Chapter 1 1910-22

1 State Ownership and Control: G.D.H. Cole
2 Towards a Miner’s Guild: National Guilds League
3 Nationalization of the Mines: Frank Hodges
4 Towards a National Railway Guild: National Guilds League
5 Workers’ Control on the Railways: Dr B. Pribicevic
6 The Railways Act, 1921: Philip Bagwell

Chapter 2 1930-35

1 A Re-Appraisal: G.D.H. Cole
2 A works Council Law: G.D.H. Cole
3 A Fabian Model for Workers’ Representation: G.D.H. Cole and W. Mellor
4 Herbert Morrison’s Case: Herbert Morrison
5 The Soviet Example: Herbert Morrison
6 The T.U.C. Congress, 1932: Trades Union Congress
7 The Labour Party Conference, 19332: The Labour Party
8 The T.U.C. Congress, 1933: Trades Union Congress
9 The Labour Party Conference, 1933: The Labour Party
10 The Agreed Formula: The Labour Party

Chapter 3 1935-55

1 The Labour Party in Power: Robert Dahl
2 The Coal Nationalization Act: W.W. Haynes
3 George Brown’s Anxieties: Parliamentary Debates H. of C.
4 Cripps and the Workers: The Times
5 Trade Union Officials and the Coal Board: Abe Moffatt
6 Acceptance of the Public Corporation: R. Page Arnot
7 No Demands from the Communists: Emmanuel Shinwell
8 We Demand Workers’ Representation: Harry Pollitt
9 The N.U.R. and Workers’ Control: Philip Bagwell
10 The Trade Unions take Sides: Eirene Hite
11 Demands for the Steel Industry: The Labour Party
12 The A.E.U. Briefs its Members: Amalgamated Engineering Union
13 Making Joint Consultation Effective: The New Statesman
14 ‘Out-of-Date Ideas’: Trades Union Congress
15 A Further Demand for Participation: The Labour Party

Chapter 4 1955-64

1 Storm Signals: Clive Jenkins
2 The Democratization of Power: New Left Review
3 To Whom are Managers Responsible?: New Left Review
4 Accountability and Participation: John Hughes
5 A 1964 Review: Michael Barratt-Brown

Section IV: The New Movement: Contemporary Writings on Industrial Democracy

Chapter 1 The New Movement: 1964-67

1 A Retreat: H.A. Clegg
2 ‘We Must Align with the Technological Necessities…’ C.A.R. Crosland
3 A Response: Royden Harrison
4 Definitions: Workers’ Control and Self-Management: Ken Coates
5 The New Movement: Ken Coates
6 The Process of Decision: Trades Union Congress
7 Economic Planning and Wages: Trades Union Congress
8 Seeking a Bigger Say at Work: Sydney Hill
9 A Plan for a Break-through in Production: Jack Jones
10 A Comment on Jack Jones’ Plan: Tony Topham
11 Open the Books: Ken Coates
12 Incomes Policy and Control: Dave Lambert
13 Watch-dogs for Nationalized Industries: Hull LEFT
14 Revival in the Coal Industry: National Union of Mineworkers
15 Workers’ Control in Nationalized Steel Industry: The Week
16 Workers’ Control in the Docks: The Dockers’ Next Step: The Week
17 The Daily Mail Takes Notes: The Daily Mail
18 Labour’s Plan for the Docks: The Labour Party
19 Municipal Services: Jack Ashwell
20 The Party Programme: The Labour Party
21 Open the Shipowners’ Books!: John Prescott and Charlie Hodgins
22 A Socialist Policy for the Unions. May Day Manifesto

The book appropriately ends with a conclusion.

The book is clearly a comprehensive, encyclopedic treatment of the issue of workers’ control primarily, but not exclusively, from the thinkers and workers who demanded and agitated for it, and who occasionally succeeded in achieving it or at least a significant degree of worker participation in management. As the book was published in 1968, it omits the great experiments in worker’s control and management of the 1970s, like the Bullock Report, the 1971 work-in at the shipbuilders in the Upper Clyde, and the worker’s co-ops at the Scottish Daily News, Triumph of Meriden, Fisher Bendix in Kirkby, and at the British Aircraft Company in Bristol.

This was, of course, largely a period where the trade unions were growing and had the strength, if not to achieve their demands, then at least to make them be taken seriously, although there were also serious setbacks. Like the collapse of the 1922 General Strike, which effectively ended syndicalism in Great Britain as a mass movement. Since Thatcher’s victory in 1979 union power has been gravely diminished and the power of management massively increased. The result of this has been the erosion of workers’ rights, so that millions of British workers are now stuck in poorly paid, insecure jobs with no holiday, sickness or maternity leave. We desperately need this situation to be reversed, to go back to the situation where working people can enjoy secure, properly-paid jobs, with full employments rights, protected by strong unions.

The Tories are keen to blame the unions for Britain’s industrial decline, pointing to the disruption caused by strikes, particularly in the industrial chaos of the 1970s. Tory propaganda claims that these strikes were caused by irresponsible militants against the wishes of the majority of working people. You can see this view in British films of the period like Ealing’s I’m All Right Jack, in which Peter Sellars played a Communist union leader, and one of the Carry On films set in a toilet factory, as well as the ’70s TV comedy, The Rag Trade. This also featured a female shop-steward, who was all too ready to cry ‘Everybody out!’ at every perceived insult or infraction of agreed conditions by management. But many of the pieces included here show that these strikes were anything but irresponsible. They were a response to real exploitation, bullying and appalling conditions. The extracts dealing with the Ford works particularly show this. Among the incidents that provoked the strike were cases where workers were threatened by management and foremen for taking time off for perfectly good reasons. One worker taken to task by his foreman for this had done so in order to take his sick son to hospital.

The book shows that workers’ control has been an issue for parts of the labour movement since the late nineteenth century, before such radicalism because associated with the Communists. They also show that, in very many cases, workers have shown themselves capable of managing their firms.

There are problems with it, nevertheless. There are technical issues about the relative representation of unions in multi-union factories. Tony Benn was great champion of industrial democracy, but in his book Arguments for Socialism he argues that it can only be set up when the workers’ in a particular firm actually want, and that it should be properly linked to a strong union movement. He also attacks token concessions to the principle, like schemes in which only one workers’ representative is elected to the board, or works’ councils which have no real power and are outside trade union control or influence.

People are becoming increasingly sick and angry of the Tories’ and New Labour impoverishment and disenfranchisement of the working class. Jeremy Corbyn has promised working people full employment and trade union rights from the first day of their employment, and to put workers in the boardroom of the major industries. We desperately need these policies to reverse the past forty years of Thatcherism, and to bring real dignity and prosperity to working people. After decades of neglect, industrial democracy is back on the table by a party leadership that really believes in it. Unlike May and the Tories when they made it part of their elections promises back in 2017.

We need the Tories out and Corbyn in government. Now. And for at least some of the industrial democracy workers have demanded since the Victorian age.

John Quiggin on the Failure of Thatcher’s New Classical Economics

January 9, 2019

Very many Libertarians describe themselves as ‘classical liberals’, meaning they support the theories of the classical economists of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This rejects state intervention and the welfare state in favour of free markets and privatization. This theory was the basis of Thatcher’s economic policy before the Falklands War, as well as those of other countries like Australia and New Zealand. In all of these countries where it was adopted it was a massive failure, like trickle-down economics and austerity.

Quiggin describes how Thatcher’s New Classical Economic policy was a failure, but she was saved from electoral defeat, partly by the Falkland War on page 113. He writes

The only requirement for the New Classical prescription to work was the credibility of the government’s commitment. Thatcher had credible commitment in bucketloads: indeed, even more than an ideological commitment to free-market ideas, credible commitment was the defining feature of her approach to politics. Aphorisms like “the lady’s not for turning” and “there is no alternative” (which produced the acronymic nickname TINA) were characteristics of Thatcher’s “conviction” politics. The slogan “No U-turns” could be regarded as independent of the particular direction in which she was driving. In a real sense, Thatcher’s ultimate political commitment was to commitment itself.

So, if New Classical economics was ever going to work it should have done so in Thatcher’s Britain. In fact, however, unemployment rose sharply, reaching 3 million and remained high for years, just as both Keynesians and monetarists expected. New Classical economics, having failed its first big policy test, dropped out of sight, reviving only in opposition to the stimulus proposals of the Obama administration.

However, Thatcher did not pay a political price for this policy failure, either at the time of (the Falklands war diverted attention from the economy) or, so far in retrospective assessments. The only alternative to the “short sharp Shock” was a long, grinding process of reducing inflation rates slowly through years of restrictive fiscal and monetary policy. While it can be argued that the resulting social and economic costs would have been significantly lower, political perceptions were very different. The mass unemployment of Thatcher’s early years was either blamed directly on her predecessors or seen as the necessary price of reversing chronic decline.

New Classical Economics was a colossal failure. In fact Thatcherism, whether implemented by the Tories or New Labour, has been a failure, though New Labour was better at managing the economy than the Tories. The only reason it has not been abandoned is because of the charisma surrounding Thatcher herself and the fact that it gives even more wealth and power to the upper classes and the business elite while keeping working people poor and unable to resist the exploitative demands of their employers. And its given a spurious credibility to ordinary people through its promotion by the media.

Don’t Be Mislead, May and the Tories Are Still Determined to Destroy the NHS

January 8, 2019

Okay, the papers today have been full of the plan May announced yesterday that would improve the NHS over the next ten years. Apparently they’re going to increase funding by 20 billion pounds above inflation by 2023, recruiting tens of thousands of new nurses and doctors.

Mike today posted a piece ripping apart these promises. He makes the point that the Tories haven’t fulfilled their existing targets to recruit more medical staff. They have also not stated where they intend to fund the money to pump into the NHS.

More sinisterly, one key part of the programme discussed by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock in an interview with Sophy Ridge sounded like the government is planning to blame poor health on the patients themselves. Hancock said in the interview that the government intended to shift towards helping people to stay health, to stop them getting ill as much as curing them.

Mike makes the point that this sound very much like the claims that the DWP helps people by refusing them benefit. He’s right. I think there has already been discussion of schemes whereby obese people should be refused medical treatment for diseases or conditions brought on by the condition.

Mike also makes the point that the fundamental problem of the Tories’ NHS policy is continuing regardless of their new plans. This is the privatization of the health service. Mike writes

As for privatisation – with more than £8 billion spent on private companies that have been allowed to buy into the NHS by the Conservatives since 2012, concern is high that the whole service in England is being primed for sale, to be replaced with a private insurance-based system, as poor as the schemes currently failing the citizens of the United States. These fears are supported by the fact that current NHS boss Simon Stevens used to work for a US-based health profiteer.

This new 10-year plan, it seems, is setting out to do exactly what Noam Chomsky described when discussing the steps leading to privatisation: Strip the service of funds, make sure it doesn’t work properly, wait for people to complain, and then sell it to private profit-making firms with a claim that this will improve the service.

He makes the case that the NHS will be treated exactly as the other privatized utilities – energy companies, railways, water industry and airports – stripped of funds, sold off, and owned by foreign firms to provide them with profits.

This also is true. Private Eye has reported how the Tories and New Labour were lobbied by private healthcare providers determined to gain access to the NHS, including the American private healthcare insurance fraudster, Unum.

He concludes

So you can look forward to a future in which you are blamed for any health problem that arises, and forced to pay through the nose for health insurance (that probably won’t cover your needs or won’t pay out at all, to judge by the American system).

It seems the Tories’ 10-year plan for the NHS is to trick you into an early grave.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/08/new-tory-nhs-plan-is-to-tell-you-your-health-problems-are-your-fault/

The Tories have been determined to privatise the NHS since the days of Margaret Thatcher. She wanted to privatise it completely, but was stopped by a cabinet revolt. She nevertheless wanted to encourage Brits to take out private health insurance and began cutting and privatizing NHS services. This was continued under John Major by Peter Lilley, who invented the Private Finance Initiative in order to help private corporations gain access to the NHS. It carried on and was expanded even further by Blair and New Labour, and has been taken over and further increased by the Tories since the election of Cameron back in 2010.

If it continues, the NHS will be privatized, and the quality of Britain’s healthcare will be what is in the US: appalling. The leading cause of bankruptcy in America is inability to pay medical costs. Something like 20 per cent of the US population is unable to afford private medical insurance. 45,000 people a year die because they cannot afford healthcare treatment.

A year or so ago a Conservative commenter to this blog tried to argue that the Labour party had not established the Health Service and that the Tories were also in favour of it. Now it is true that the welfare state, including the NHS, was based on the Beveridge Report of 1944. Beveridge was a Liberal, and his report was based on the information and views he had been given in turn by civil servants and other professionals. But the Health Service itself was set up by Aneirin Bevan in Clement Attlee 1945 Labour government. The Health Service’s ultimate origins lay in the 1906 Minority Report into reform of the existing healthcare services by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. The Socialist Medical Society had been demanding a nationalized system of healthcare in the 1930s, as had the Fabian Society, and this had become Labour policy in that decade. And later in the 1950s, after the NHS had been established, the Tory right again demanded its privatization on the grounds that it was supposedly too expensive. Even now this is the attitude of right-wing historians and politicians, like Corelli Barnet, who has said that the reason why Britain was unable to modernize its industry after the War like the Germans or French was because the money went instead to the NHS.

The same commenter also claimed that Britain never had a private healthcare system. This is untrue. Many hospitals were run by local councils, but there were also private charity and voluntary hospitals. And these did charge for their services.

I’ve put up pieces before about how terrible healthcare was in Britain before the NHS. Here’s another passage about the state of healthcare for Britain’s working class between the First and Second World Wars, from Eric Hopkins’ The Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes 1918-1990: A Social History (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1991)

The health services between the wars were still in a rudimentary state. Insurance against sickness was compulsory for all workers earning less than 160 per annum under the National Insurance Act of 1911 but the scheme did not cover the dependants of the insured, and sickness benefits when away from work were still lower than unemployment rates. Further, the range of benefits was limited, and hospital treatment was not free unless provided in poor law infirmaries. Treatment in municipal hospitals or voluntarily run hospitals still had to be paid for. The health service was run not by the Ministry of Health, but by approved societies, in practice mostly insurance societies. As a system, it suffered from administrative weaknesses and duplication of effort, and the Royal Commission on National Health Insurance 1926 recommended that the system be reformed; the Minority Report even recommended that the administration of the system be removed from the societies altogether. In 1929 the Local Government Act allowed local authorities to take over the poor law infirmaries, and to run them as municipal hospitals. Not many did so, and by 1939 about half of all public hospital services were still provided by the poor law infirmaries. By that year, it would be fair to say that there was something resembling a national health service for the working classes, but it was still very limited in scope (it might or might not include dental treatment, depending on the society concerned), and although treatment by general practitioners was free for those by the scheme, as we have seen, hospital treatment might have to be paid for. (pp. 25-6).

This what the Tories and the Blairites in New Labour wish to push us back to, although looking at that description in seems that even this amount of government provision of healthcare is too much for those wishing to privatise it completely.

The Tories’ claim to support and ‘treasure’ the NHS are lies. May is a liar, and has already lied about putting money into the NHS. I remember how She claimed that they were going to increase funding, while at the same time stating that the NHS would still be subject to cuts. And I don’t doubt that she intends to take this plan anymore seriously. It doesn’t mean anything. Look how she declared that austerity had ended, only to carry on pursuing austerity.

Defend the NHS. Get Tweezer and the Tories out, and Corbyn and Labour in.

John Quiggin on the Absolute Failure of Trickle-Down Economics

January 8, 2019

John Quiggin is an economics professor at the university of Queensland Down Under. His 2010 book, Zombie Economics, is a very thorough demolition of the economic theories that have formed the current dogma since the election of Thatcher and Reagan in 1979 and 1980.

One of the theories he refutes is ‘trickle-down’ economics. This is theory that if you act to give more wealth to the rich through tax cuts, deregulation and privatization, this wealth will trickle down to benefit those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. It was one of the central planks of Thatcherism. And even in the 1980s, it’s effectiveness was highly dubious. I remember watching a documentary about it on the Beeb, which illustrated the theory with a pyramid of champagne glasses. When the glasses at the top of the pyramid were filled to overflowing, the champagne flowed down to the glasses lower down. So, Thatcher and her cronies claimed, their programme of free market economics would benefit everyone in society by enriching those at the top, from whom it would trickle down to the rest of us. If I remember correctly, the programme itself argued this wasn’t happening. And it hasn’t since. on pages 155 to 157 Quggin shows how the policy has not worked in America, and in fact the poor are massively poorer off. He writes

The experience of the United States during the decades of market liberalism, from the 1970s until the Global Financial Crisis, gives little support for the trickle-down view. The gross domestic product of the United States grew solidly in this period, if not as rapidly as during the Keynesian postwar boom. More relevantly to the trickle-down hypothesis , the incomes and wealth of the richest Americans grew spectacularly. Incomes at the fifth percentile of the income distribution doubled and those for the top 0.1 per cent quadrupled.

By contrast, the gains to households in the middle of the income distribution have been much more modest. As shown in figure 4.2, real median household income rose from forty-five thousand dollars to just over fifty thousand dollars between 1973 (the last year of the long postwar expansion) and 2008. The annual rate of increase was 0.4 per cent.

For those at the bottom of the income distribution, there have been no gains at all. Real incomes for the lower half of the distribution have stagnated. The same picture emerges if we look at wages. Median real earning for full-time year-round male workers have not grown since 1974. For males with high school education or less, real wages have actually declined. According to estimates made by the Economic Policy Institute, the average annual earnings of twenty-five to twenty-nine-year-old high school graduates, expressed in 2005 values, fell from #30,900 in 1970 to $25,90 in 2000, and have stagnated since then.

Since 2000, median household incomes have actually fallen, the first time in modern history that such a decline has taken place over a full business cycle. One result can be seen by looking at the proportion of households living below the poverty line. The poverty rate declined steadily during the postwar Keynsian era. It has remained essentially static since 1970, falling in booms, but rising again in recessions.

Unlike most developed countries, the United States has a poverty line fixed in terms of absolute consumption levels and based on an assessment of a poverty-line food budget undertaken in 1963. The proportion of Americans below this fixed poverty line fell from 25 per cent in the late 1950s to 11 percent in 1974. Since then it has fluctuated, reaching 13.2 percent in 2008, a level that is certain to rise further as a result of the financial crisis and recession now taking place. Since the poverty line has remained unchanged, this means that the real incomes accruing to the poorest ten percent of Americans have fallen over the last thirty years.

These outcomes are reflected in measures of the numbers of Americans who lack access to the basics of life: food, shelter, and adequate medical care.

In 2008, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics quoted by the Food Research Action Center, 49.1 million Americans live in households classified as “food insecure”, meaning that they lacked access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times due to lack of financial resources. Slightly more than 17 million people (17.3 million) lived in households that were considered to have “very low food security”, which means that one or more people in the household were hungry over the course of the year because of the inability to afford enough food. This number had doubled since 2000 and has almost certainly increased further as a result of the recession.

The number of people without health insurance rose steadily over the period of market liberalism, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the population, reaching a peak of 46 million, or 15 percent of the population. Among the insured, an increasing proportion was reliant on government programs. The traditional model of employment-based private health insurance, which was developed as part of the New Deal, and covered most of the population during the Keynesian era, was eroded to the point of collapse.

Homelessness is almost entirely a phenomenon of the era of market liberalism. During the decade of full employment, homelessness was confined to a tiny population of transients, mostly older males with mental health and substance abuse problems. By contrast, in 2007, 1.6 million people spent time in homeless shelters, and about 40 percent of the homeless population were families with children.

The experience of the United States in the era of market liberalism was as thorough a refutation of the trickle-down hypothesis as can reasonably be imagined. The well off have become better off, and the rich have become super-rich. Despite impressive technological progress, those in the middle of the income distributions struggled to stay in place, and those at the bottom became worse-off in crucial respects.

(My emphasis).

Bernie Sanders in his book described just how severe the crisis in private American medical care was. It almost collapsed completely in certain states because a very large number of patients are simply unable to afford medical treatment.

And the same situation prevails here in Britain, with increasing poverty here in Britain. Millions of households now live below the poverty line, a quarter of million people need food banks to keep body and soul together, including working people with families. As Mike pointed out in a piece last week, parents are now starving themselves in order to fee their children.

The NHS is also in crisis, though for different but related reasons to those in the US. It’s in crisis because of massive funding cuts by the Tories over the last decade, and the determination of both Tory and New Labour administrations to privatise it by stealth. The introduction of private enterprise into the NHS actually raises costs, not diminishes them. It’s for the simple reason that private firms have to make a profit to pass on to their shareholders. Plus private firms also have bureaucracies of their own, which in some instances can take up 44 per cent of the firm’s income.

And added to this there is a massive increase in homelessness. But don’t worry! Yesterday, the I newspaper published a piece from the Economist telling millennials to cheer up, because in the future they’ll be able to afford their own home. Which sounds very much like simple propaganda for the current economic orthodoxy, rather than a realistic, credible prediction.

Free market capitalism has failed, despite what the press and media is trying to tell us. The Conservatives responsible for its adoption should be thrown out of government, and the Blairites who introduced it into Labour should be forced out of the positions of power they seek to monopolise. If not expelled altogether as Thatcherite entryists.

We need a genuine, socialist Labour government to clean this mess up. A government which must be led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Regenerating the High Street through National Workshops

January 7, 2019

Last week Tweezer announced her plan to revitalize Britain’s failing high streets. Many of our shops are closing as customers and retailers move onto the internet. City centres are being hit hard as shop fronts are left vacant, inviting further vandalism, and further economic decline as shoppers are put off by empty stores and smashed shop windows. In America, it’s been forecast that half of the country’s malls are due to close in the next few years. Tweezer announced that she was going to try reverse this trend in Britain by allocating government money to local authorities, for which they would have to bid.

I’m suspicious of this scheme, partly because of the way it’s being managed. In my experience, the Conservatives’ policy of forcing local authorities to bid for needed funding is simply another way of stopping some places from getting the money they need under the guise of business practice or democracy or however they want to present it. It’s the same way Thatcher would always delay the date when she’d give local authorities they funding they needed for the next year. It’s a way of disguising the fact that they’re making cuts, or simply not giving the money that’s really needed.

As for how local authorities could regenerate their town centres, I wonder if it could be done through a form of the national workshops suggested by the 19th century French socialist, Louis Blanc. During the Revolution of 1848, Blanc proposed a scheme to provide jobs for France’s unemployed by setting up a series of state-owned workshops. These would be run as co-operatives. The workers would share the profits, a certain proportion of which would be set aside to purchase other businesses. This would eventually lead to the socialization of French industry.

Needless to say, the scheme failed through official hostility. The scheme was adopted, by the state undermined it through giving the unemployed on it pointless and demeaning jobs to do. Like digging ditches for no particular reason. It thus petered out as unemployed workers did their best to avoid the scheme. There’s a kind of parallel there to the way the Conservatives and New Labour tried to stop people going on Jobseeker’s Allowance by making it as degrading and unpleasant as possible, and by the workfare industry. This last provides absolutely no benefit whatsoever to workers on it, but gives cheap labour to the firms participating in the scheme, like the big supermarkets.

The national workshops, on the other hand, were at least intended to provide work and empower France’s working people.

In his Fabian Essay, ‘The Transition to Social Democracy’, George Bernard Shaw suggested that Britain could painlessly become a truly socialized economy and society through the gradual extension of municipalization. Town councils would gradually take over more and more parts of the local economy and industry. He pointed to the way the local authorities were already providing lighting, hospitals and other services.

I therefore wonder if it would be better to try to create new businesses in Britain’s town centres by renting the empty shops to groups of workers to run them as cooperatives. They’d share the profits, part of which would be put aside to buy up more businesses, which would also be turned into co-ops.
Already local businesses in many cities have benefited by some radical socialist ideas. In this case, it’s the local currencies, which are based on the number of hours of labour required to produce an article or provide a service, an idea that goes all the way back to anarchist thinkers like Proudhon and Lysander Spooner in the 19th century. These schemes serve to put money back into the local community and businesses.

I realise that this is actually extremely utopian. Local governments are perfectly willing to provide some funding to local co-ops, if they provide an important service. I’ve heard that in Bristol there’s a co-op in Stokes Croft that has been funded by the council because it employs former convicts and drug addicts. However, you can imagine the Tories’ sheer rage, and that of private business and the right-wing press, if a local council tried to put a system of locally owned co-operatives into practice. It would be attacked as ‘loony left’ madness and a threat to proper, privately owned business and jobs.

But it could be what is needed, if only partly, to regenerate our streets: by creating businesses that create jobs and genuinely empower their workers and provide services uniquely tailored to their communities.

Tony Benn: Socialism Needed to Prevent Massive Abuse by Private Industry

January 7, 2019

In the chapter ‘Labour’s Industrial Programme’ in his 1979 book, Arguments for Socialism, Tony Benn makes a very strong case for the extension of public ownership. This is needed, he argued, to prevent serious abuse by private corporations. This included not just unscrupulous and unjust business policies, like one medical company overcharging the health service for its products, but also serious threats to democracy. Benn is also rightly outraged by the way companies can be bought and sold without the consultation of their workers. He writes

The 1970s provided us with many examples of the abuse of financial power. There were individual scandals such as the one involving Lonrho which the Conservative Prime Minister, Mr Heath, described as the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’. Firms may be able to get away with the payment of 38,000 pounds a year to part-time chairmen if no one else knows about it. But when it becomes public and we know that the chairman, as a Conservative M.P., supports a statutory wages policy to keep down the wage of low-paid workers, some earning less than 20 pounds a week at the time, it becomes intolerable. There was the case of the drug company, Hoffman-La Roche, who were grossly overcharging the National Health Service. There was also the initial refusal by Distillers to compensate the thalidomide children properly.

There were other broader scandals such as those involving speculation in property and agricultural land; the whole industry of tax avoidance; the casino-like atmosphere of the Stock Exchange. Millions of people who experience real problems in Britain are gradually learning all this on radio and television and from the press. Such things are a cynical affront to the struggle that ordinary people have to feed and clothe their families.

But the problem goes deeper than that. Workers have no legal rights to be consulted when the firms for which they work are taken over. They are sold off like cattle when a firm changes hands with no guarantee for the future. The rapid growth of trade union membership among white-collar workers and even managers indicates the strength of feelings about that. Not just the economic but also the political power of big business, especially the multinationals, has come into the open.

In Chile the ITT plotted to overthrow an elected President. The American arms companies, Lockheed and Northrop, have been shown to have civil servants, generals, ministers and even prime ministers, in democratic countries as well as dictatorships, on their payroll. The Watergate revelations have shown how big business funds were used in an attempt to corrupt the American democratic process. In Britain we have had massive political campaigns also financed by big business to oppose the Labour Party’s programme for public ownership and to secure the re-election of Conservative governments. Big business also underwrote the cost of the campaign to keep Britain in the Common Market at the time of the 1975 referendum. (pp. 49-50).

Benn then moves to discuss the threat of the sheer amount of power held by big business and the financial houses.

Leaving aside the question of abuse, the sheer concentration of industrial and economic power is now a major political factor. The spate of mergers in recent years in Britain alone – and their expected continuation – can be expressed like this: in 1950 the top 100 companies in Britain produced about 20 per cent of the national output. By 1973 they produced 46 per cent. And at this rate, by 1980, they will produce 66 per cent – two-thirds of our national output. Many of them will be operating multinationally, exporting capital and jobs and siphoning off profits to where the taxes are most profitable.

The banks, insurance companies and financial institutions are also immensely powerful. In June 1973 I was invited to speak at a conference organised by the Financial Times and the Investors Chronicle. It was held in the London Hilton, and before going I added up the total assets of the banks and other financial institutions represented in the audience. They were worth at that time about 95,000 million pounds. This was at the time about twice as much as the Gross National Product of the United Kingdom and four or five times the total sum raised in taxation by the British government each year. (p.50).

He then goes on to argue that the Labour party has to confront what this concentration of industrial and financial power means for British democracy and its institutions, and suggests some solutions.

The Labour Party must ask what effect all this power will have on the nature of our democracy. Britain is proud of its system of parliamentary democracy, its local democracy and its free trade unions. But rising against this we have the growing power of the Common Market which will strip our elected House of Commons of its control over some key economic decisions. This has greatly weakened British democracy at a time when economic power is growing stronger.

I have spelled this out because it is the background against which our policy proposals have been developed. In the light of our experience in earlier governments we believed it would necessary for government to have far greater powers over industry. These are some of the measures we were aiming at in the Industry Bill presented to Parliament in 1975, shortly after our return to power:

The right to require disclosure of information by companies
The right of government to invest in private companies requiring support.
The provision for joint planning between government and firms.
The right to acquire firms, with the approval of Parliament.
The right to protect firms from takeovers.
The extension of the present insurance companies’ provisions for ministerial control over board members.
The extension of the idea of Receivership to cover the defence of the interests of workers and the nation.
Safeguards against the abuse of power by global companies.

If we are to have a managed economy-and that seems to be accepted – the question is: ‘In whose interests is it to be managed?’ We intend to manage it in the interests of working people and their families. But we do not accept the present corporate structure of Government Boards, Commissions and Agents, working secretly and not accountable to Parliament. The powers we want must be subjected to House of Commons approval when they are exercised. (pp. 50-1).

I don’t know what proportion of our economy is now dominated by big business and the multinationals, but there is absolutely no doubt that the situation after nearly forty years of Thatcherism is now much worse. British firms, including our public utilities, have been bought by foreign multinationals, are British jobs are being outsourced to eastern Europe and India.

There has also been a massive corporate takeover of government. The political parties have become increasingly reliant on corporate donations from industries, that then seek to set the agenda and influence the policies of the parties to which they have given money. The Conservatives are dying from the way they have consistently ignored the wishes of their grassroots, and seem to be kept alive by donations from American hedge fund firms. Under Blair and Brown, an alarmingly large number of government posts were filled by senior managers and officials from private firms. Both New Labour and the Tories were keen to sell off government enterprises to private industry, most notoriously to the firms that bankrolled them. And they put staff from private companies in charge of the very government departments that should have been regulating them. See George Monbiot’s Captive State.

In America this process has gone so far in both the Democrat and Republican parties that Harvard University in a report concluded that America was no longer a functioning democracy, but a form of corporate oligarchy.

The Austrian Marxist thinker, Karl Kautsky, believed that socialists should only take industries into public ownership when the number of firms in them had been reduced through bankruptcies and mergers to a monopoly. Following this reasoning, many of the big companies now dominating modern Britain, including the big supermarkets, should have been nationalized long ago.

Tony Benn was and still is absolutely right about corporate power, and the means to curb it. It’s why the Thatcherite press reviled him as a Communist and a maniac. We now no longer live in a planned economy, but the cosy, corrupt arrangements between big business, the Tories, Lib Dems and New Labour, continues. Ha-Joon Chang in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism argues very strongly that we need to return to economic planning. In this case, we need to go back to the policies of the ’70s that Thatcher claimed had failed, and extend them.

And if that’s true, then the forty years of laissez-faire capitalism ushered in by Thatcher and Reagan is an utter, utter failure. It’s time it was discarded.

Poverty and the Insensitivity of the Queen’s Speech

December 30, 2018

A few days ago Mike put up an article reporting the backlash against the monarchy that had occurred as a result of the Queen’s speech. I never saw it as I find the speech horrendously boring, but I gather that Her Maj had sat in a wonderful gilded room, complete with a priceless gold Erard piano, and urged us all to be tolerant of each other at this time. People were naturally more than a bit annoyed to hear someone, surrounded with the kind of wealth most people can only dream about, telling the rest of the country in effect that they had better respect their superiors when poverty is massively increasing and people are fearing for their jobs, their homes and whether they’ll be able to put food on the table for their children tomorrow.

They also resented the fact that the royal family, as rich as they are, are subsidized by the rest of us through our taxes. Mike in his article reproduced a number of tweets critical of the monarchy, pointing out that the Queen’s comments that we should put aside our differences in the national interest was the type of slogan the Tories come out with.

One of the tweets by Mark Adkins went further, and said that it wasn’t just the monarchy itself that was the problem, but what they represented: the British class system that made breeding more important than anything else, and which concluded ‘This world view helps justify racism, snobbery and the demonisation of the poor. A Republic is long overdue!’

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/26/insensitivity-of-queens-speech-prompts-backlash-against-the-monarchy/

I’m not a republican, but this did show that the Queen was seriously out of touch. She could have made her speech in more sombre settings or even actually on the front line, as it were, at a food bank to show that she was at least aware how much some people were suffering. It all reminded me of the comments the 19th century German socialist writer Adolf Glasbrenner made about the Prussian monarchy of his day in his piece Konschtitution. The piece is supposed to be an explanation of the German constitution by a father to his son, Willem. It’s written in the Berlin dialect, and is written from the perspective of someone, who really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s like some of Tony Hancock’s speeches, when he started talking about aspects of British constitutional history, that he obviously didn’t know anything about. Like his remarks in the episode ‘Twelve Angry Men’ about Magna Carta being a poor Hungarian peasant girl, who was burned at the stake in order to get King John to close the boozers at half past ten. Or like some of the rants by Alf Garnett about how great Britain is, but without the racism.

Amongst Glasbrenner’s skewed explanation of the Prussian constitution are his remarks on the monarchy. These include:

‘The King does, what he wants; and against that, the people do, what the kind wants. The ministers are therefore responsible for nothing happening. The king rules quite irresponsibly… Should the people come to penury or starvation, so is the king bound, to say he’s sorry.’ He also declares that the form of the state is ‘monarchical-pulcinelle’, the latter word a character from the Italian Commedia dell’arte. The commedia dell’arte was one of the sources of the modern British pantomime as well as Mr. Punch in the Punch and Judy show, so you could possibly translate the phrase into a British context by saying it was ‘monarchical-Mr. Punch’ The piece also has a line that ‘without Junkers (Prussian aristocracy), police and cannon freedom isn’t possible’.

Although it’s a spoof on the Prussian constitution and the classical liberal conception of the state, which was that it should simply guard against crime without interfering directly in society or the economy, it obviously has some relevance to the Tory conception of politics. This also stresses the monarchy, strongly rejects any kind of state interference, and also believes that freedom is only possible through the aristocracy, the armed forces and the police. Although the police aren’t being supported so much these days, as the Tories want to save money by cutting their numbers so that they protect the rich, while the rest of society are left to defend themselves from crime. Perhaps they still think we’ll all hire the private security guards like the Libertarians and Virginia Bottomley were so keen on as replacements.

More ominously, in the present situation over Brexit it also reminded me of a poem by the Liberal Serbian poet Zmaj Jovanovic, ‘The National Anthem of the State of Jutunin’ I found quoted in Vladimir Dedijer’s Tito Speaks (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1953). This is a memoir of the former Yugoslav dictator’s life and his break with Stalin and the Soviet bloc. It was printed in the last issue of Borba, a Communist magazine, when the Yugoslav king, Alexander, seized dictatorial power, dissolving parliament and banning political parties.

O thou, Holy God, keep our King alive
In good health, strong, proud and glorious,
Since this earth has never seen, nor shall
Ever see a king equal to him.
Give him, O Lord, the holiest gifts from heaven:
Police, gendarmeries and spies:
If he doesn’t fight the foe,
Let him keep his own people under his heel.
(p. 69).

I’m not accusing the Queen, nor the Duke of Edinburgh or anyone else in the royal family of planning to seize power and rule like an absolute monarch. But I am worried about Tweezer’s plan to put 3,500 troops on the streets in case of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. Under the Conservatives and New Labour Britain has become a very authoritarian society, including through the establishment of secret courts, where you can be tried in camera without knowing the identity of your accuser and with evidence withheld from your lawyers, all in the interests of national security. We now have a private company, the Institute for Statecraft, publishing smears in the media against Jeremy Corbyn and other politicians and public figures in Europe and America for the British and American secret state. And Mike reports that Tories are now requiring EU citizens or the children of EU citizens resident in England sign up to a central registry, which may make their information available to other public or private bodies without telling anyone which. This is another very disturbing development, as it seems that the British state is determined to leave them open to official persecution. And I’ve said in a previous blog post that a priest at my church, who ministered in Australia, is worried that if Corbyn gets into power, the Tories will try to get the Queen to dismiss him, just as they had her to do Gough ‘Wocker’ Whitlam in the 1970s.

I support the monarchy, but it needs reform and the Queen’s lack of tact in showing off her wealth at a time of great hardship has only made matters worse. And I’m afraid the increasing authoritarianism of the Tory and New Labour governments could discredit the monarchy if and when there’s a backlash.

Bakunin: Democracy without Economic Equality Is Worthless

December 27, 2018

More anarchism now, this time from the Russian anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin. Bakunin violently criticized and rejected democracy because he passionately believed and argued that without economic equality for the workers, it would simply preserve the power of the exploiting classes, including the bourgeoisie, the owners of capital and industry. These would continue legislating for themselves against the workers.

Bakunin wrote

The child endowed with the greatest talents, but born into a poor family, a family of workers living from day to day on their hard labour, is doomed to an ignorance which, instead of developing his own natural talents, kills them all: he will become the worker, the unskilled labourer, forced to be the bourgeoisie’s man-servant and field-worker. The child of bourgeois parents, on the other hand, the child of the rich, however, stupid by nature, will receive both the upbringing and the education necessary to develop his scanty talents as much as possible. He will become the exploiter of labour, the master, the property-owner, the legislator, the governor-a gentleman. However stupid he may be, he will make laws on behalf of the people and against them, and he will rule over the popular masses.

In a democratic state, it will be said, the people will choose only the good men. But how will they recognize them? They have neither the education necessary for judging the good and the bad, nor the spare time necessary for learning the differences among those who run for election. These men, moreover, live in a society different from their own; they doff their hat to Their Majesty the sovereign people only at election-time, and once elected they turn their backs. Moreover, however excellent they may be as members of their family and their society, they will always be bad for the people, because, belonging to the privileged and exploiting class, they will quite naturally wish to preserve those privileges which constitute the very basis of their social existence and condemn the people to eternal slavery.

But why haven’t the people been sending men of their own, men of the people, to the legislative assemblies and the government? First, because men of the people, who have to live by their physical labour, do not have the time to devote themselves exclusively to politics. [Second, b]eing unable to do so, being more often ignorant of the political and economic questions which are discussed in these lofty regions, they will nearly always be the dupes of lawyers and bourgeois politicians. Also, [third] it is usually enough for these men of the people to enter the government for them to become members of the bourgeoisie in their turn, sometimes hating and scorning the people from whom they came more than do the natural-born members of the bourgeoisie.

So you see that political equality, even in the most democratic states, is an illusion. It is the same with juridical equality, equality before the law. The bourgeoisie make the law for themselves, and they practice it against the people. The State, and the law which expresses it, exist only to perpetuate the slavery of the people for the benefit of the bourgeoisie.

Moreover, you know, if you wish to file suit when you find your interests, your honour, or your rights wronged, you must first prove that you are able to pay the costs, that is, that you can lay aside an impossible sum; and if you cannot do so, they you cannot file the suit. But do the people, the majority of the workers, have the resources to put on deposit in a court of law? Most of the time, no. Hence the rich man will be able to attack you and insult you with impunity. There is no justice at all for the people.

Political equality will be an illusion so long as economic and social equality do not exist, so long as any minority can become rich, property-owning, and capitalist through inheritance. Do you know the true definitions of hereditary property? It is the hereditary ability to exploit the collective labour of the people and to enslave the masses.

In Robert M. Cutler, Mikhail Bakunin: From Out of the Dustbin: Bakunin’s Basic Writings 1869-71 (Ann Arbor: Ardis 1985) pp. 50-1.

Bakunin’s stance is extreme, obviously, and the educational opportunities open to working people has changed immensely since the late 19th century when he wrote this. The school leaving age in Britain has gradually been extended until it’s 18, and nearly half of all school leavers now go on to university to obtain degrees. But nevertheless, his criticism still remains valid.

The majority of politicians and members of parliament come from the middle and upper classes. There was a book published a few years ago that estimated that 75 per cent of MPs have senior management positions or sit on the boards of companies, so that the majority of them are millionaires. As a result, legislation passed by them has benefited industry at the expense of working people, so that the rich are getting much richer, and the poor poorer. They have attacked employees’ rights at work, introduced the gig economy, which has trapped people in insecure, irregularly paid work without benefits like annual leave, sick pay or maternity leave. At the same time the benefits system has been attacked to create a demoralized, cowed workforce ready to accept any job than starve without state support, due to benefit sanctions and delays in payment. And then there’s the infamous workfare, which is nothing less than the abuse of the benefits system to supply industry and particularly the big supermarkets with subsidized cheap labour for exploitation.

This situation has partly come about because New Labour abandoned economic justice for working people and took over the Neoliberal policies of Margaret Thatcher. The result was that even when the Tories were ousted with the 1997 election, elements of Thatcherism continued under Blair and Brown. And the Neocons have admitted that while they were in favour of exporting democracy to Iraq, they wanted that new freedom to be strictly limited so that only parties promoting free trade and economic individualism would be elected.

In the US the situation has got worse. Due to political sponsorship and donations from big business, politicians in congress notoriously do not represent their constituents but their corporate donors. Only 19-25 per cent of American voters feel the government works for them, and a study by Harvard University concluded that the country was not so much a democracy as a corporate oligarchy.

Democracy would thus benefit the ruling classes, and provide the illusion of freedom for everyone else.

This has to be reversed. Corporate money and power has to be taken out of politics and ordinary working men and women put in, with an agenda to empower this country’s ordinary people instead of reassuring lies, like the Tories.

It’s why we need Corbyn in government, and the Tories, Lib-Dems and New Labour out.

Tweezer’s Threat to Post-Brexit Democracy

December 26, 2018

Last Wednesday, the 19th December 2018, Mike put up a truly alarming article. May, he reported, was planning on putting 3,500 squaddies on the streets of Britain if the country crashed out of the EU without a deal.

Mike in his article made the point that it looks like the Tories are desperate to get the country out of Europe before new tax legislation comes in, which would force the millionaires she serves to pay more tax. It’s a very strong argument. The only reason we are due to leave the EU on the date May set is because May set it. If negotiations with the EU take longer to secure a deal, it’s possible for May to postpone it. But she clearly doesn’t want that. And Tory policy, and for that matter, New Labour’s, has been for us to become a low wage tax haven off Europe, for the benefit of the extremely rich. Hence the continuing scandal of the City of London becoming one of the major centres of global money laundering. For further information, see the ‘In the City’ column in Private Eye.

Mike also commented that May appeared to be deliberately running down the clock to Brexit, perhaps due to being deliberately influenced with the hard right European Research Group and Jacob Rees-Mogg. And low taxes mean that not enough money is available for social policies that benefit ordinary people. Mike therefore concluded that

Put these elements together and it may be easier to understand why Mrs May is planning to deploy 3,500 soldiers onto the streets of the UK in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit. Martial law would preserve her government – sorry, dictatorship – against the civil unrest that her policies seem certain to provoke.

Mike then supports his conclusion with further arguments – that Tweezer knows she’s on borrowed time, but is determined to cling on to power, that the government wishes her to stay in power to continue the harm she’s doing to our country and society, and the complicity of the media in this, distracting the country in order to stop them realizing how they are being stripped of their rights and forced into debt.

Mike’s commenters are also extremely alarmed at the idea of Tweezer calling in the armed forces, and some of their comments are very well worth reading. Dan Delion, for example, said

If you want to know what may be in the pipeline, I urge you to read part 2 (Emergency Powers) of the Civil Contingency Act 2004 (it’s not long ~ 10pp) which describes the legislatiion that already exists – set up by Tony Blair, as it happens.
This is nothing to do with the replacememnt for Emergency Planning (that’s part 1 of said Act), but is intended to deal with any form of civil strife – just like Brexit.. Makes me wonder if May found what was up her sleeve and has been planning to keep the law in reserve, just in case Remoaners (or any other bodies) get uppity!

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/19/brexipocalypse-may-threatens-martial-law-if-she-doesnt-get-her-contradictory-way/

This really is monstrous. The last time I can remember the army being called on to the streets of Britain was back in the 1970s, when there was a widespread fear that the country was on the verge of collapse, mostly due to strikes. And members of the establishment, including the Times and the editor of the Mirror, were definitely planning a coup in the mid-70s to overthrow Harold Wilson’s minority Government. This was partly because he was feared – and smeared by MI5 – as a KGB agent. Ken Livingstone discusses the proposed coup in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour. Left-wing activists, including journalists, were to be rounded up and interned in one of the islands off Scotland. This was no mere fantasy. Francis Wheen also describes the proposed coup and the plotters in his book, Strange Days: Paranoia in the ’70s. And Lobster has discussed several times MI5’s smears against Wilson.

The plotters did try to get the generals at Sandhurst interested, but they did their duty to Queen and country instead and send them packing. but there is nevertheless a real threat there. The Trotskyite writer, Ernest Mandel, in his book From Stalinism to Eurocommunism (New York: Schocken Books 1978) argued that democratically elected socialist and Marxist regimes have always been prevented from fully carrying out their dismantlement of big capital by the military. Mandel’s book is an attack on the ‘Eurocommunist’ direction western European Marxist took as they broke from the Stalinism and rigidly bureaucratic politics of the Soviet Union and turned instead to democratic elections and multiparty politics. It was a strategy intended to avoid a violent confrontation between the workers and capital. Mandel writes

Now, the essential aim of the Eurocommunist strategy is precisely to avert this confrontation at any price. Its capacity to influence the behaviour of the bourgeoisie, however, is virtually nil. The coups of Kapp, Mola-Franco, De Gaulle, Pinochet and Eanes have never been warded off by the pledges of Ebert-Noske, Otto Wels, Prieto, Thorez, Allende, or Mario Soares that the army is ‘national’ and ‘democratic’ and ‘stands above the class struggle’ and ‘respects the constitution’. (pp. 196-7).

The Kapp putsch was an attempt by parts of the army to overthrow the Weimar coalition government of post-WW I Germany headed by Ebert, the head of the SDP, the German equivalent of the Labour party. Thorez was the head of the Communist party in France when De Gaulle briefly seized power to govern by decree. Allende was the democratically elected Marxist president of Chile who was overthrown by Pinochet. General Franco was the Fascist leader of Spain, who overthrew the Republican government. I’m not familiar with the other names. Mandel is here discussing Marxist politicians, who were unable to stave off coups or coup attempts. Jeremy Corbyn very definitely isn’t a Marxist, but the Tories and mainstream media have been trying to smear him and his followers as Communists, Trotskyites and Stalinists. I can easily believe that some Tories would want him overthrown militarily if he did become prime minister.

I was talking a few months ago to one of the priests at our church, who also has strong left-wing beliefs. He lived and ministered for a long time in Australia, and told me that he wondered if Corbyn would ever be allowed to take power. He considered it possible that the Tories here would do what their counterparts Down Under did. They invoked the Queen to have the definitely democratically elected Gough Whitlam removed from office. I think if that happened here, it would utterly discredit the monarchy, though I can see a very carefully crafted story being concocted by the political establishment and the media to justify such an outrageous abuse of the monarchical prerogative.

And even if May’s preparations to put the army on the streets in the event of a No Deal Brexit is only to prevent rioting, there’s still more than element of self-interest about it. It was rioting over the poll tax in 1989 that forced Thatcher to retire, even though she won the vote of No Confidence in the Tory party with a slightly higher majority than Tweezer. And she nearly went eight or nine years previously, in 1981-2, with the rioting then.

And she clearly is concerned that rioting will occur if Britain leaves the EU without some kind of deal. Rioting no doubt caused by lack of food, medicine and other essential services caused by her shoddy negotiations with the EU.

May is a direct threat to British democracy, and the lives and livelihoods of Britain’s citizens. She works only for the rich, and would like to use the army to keep herself in power. Just like Thatcher’s friend, the mass murderer and torturer General Pinochet, and the other Latin American fascists the Tories supported.