Posts Tagged ‘Public Works’

Workers’ Chamber Book: Chapter Breakdown

November 21, 2017

As I mentioned in my last post, a year or so ago I wrote a pamphlet, about 22,000 words long, arguing that as parliament was filled with the extremely rich, who passed legislation solely to benefit the wealthy like themselves and the owners and management of business, parliament should have an elected chamber occupied by working people, elected by working people. So far, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I haven’t found a publisher for it. I put up a brief overview of the book’s contents in my last post. And here’s a chapter by chapter breakdown, so you can see for yourselves what it’s about and some of the arguments involved.

For a Workers’ Parliamentary Chamber

This is an introduction, briefly outlining the purpose of the book, discussing the current domination of parliament by powerful corporate interests, and the working class movements that have attempted to replacement parliamentary democracy with governmental or administrative organs set up by the workers themselves to represent them.

Parliamentary Democracy and Its Drawbacks

This discusses the origins of modern, representative parliamentary democracy in the writings of John Locke, showing how it was tied up with property rights to the exclusion of working people and women. It also discusses the Marxist view of the state as in the instrument of class rule and the demands of working people for the vote. Marx, Engels, Ferdinand Lassalle and Karl Kautsky also supported democracy and free speech as a way of politicising and transferring power to the working class. It also shows how parliament is now dominated by big business. These have sent their company directors to parliament since the Second World War, and the number has massively expanded since the election of Margaret Thatcher. Universal suffrage on its own has not brought the working class to power.

Alternative Working Class Political Assemblies

This describes the alternative forms of government that working people and trade unionists have advocated to work for them in place of a parliamentary system that excludes them. This includes the Trades Parliament advocated by Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trade Union, the Chartists’ ‘Convention of the Industrious Classes’, the Russian soviets and their counterparts in Germany and Austria during the council revolution, the emergence and spread of Anarcho-Syndicalism, and its aims, as described by Rudolf Rocker.

Guild Socialism in Britain

This describes the spread of Syndicalist ideas in Britain, and the influence of American Syndicalist movements, such as the I.W.W. It then discusses the formation and political and social theories of Guild Socialism, put forward by Arthur Penty, S.G. Hobson and G.D.H. Cole. This was a British version of Syndicalism, which also included elements of state socialism and the co-operative movement. This chapter also discusses Cole’s critique of capitalist, representative democracy in his Guild Socialism Restated.

Saint-Simon, Fascism and the Corporative State

This traces the origins and development of these two systems of government. Saint-Simon was a French nobleman, who wished to replace the nascent French parliamentary system of the early 19th century with an assembly consisting of three chambers. These would be composed of leading scientists, artists and writers, and industrialists, who would cooperate to administer the state through economic planning and a programme of public works.

The Fascist Corporative State

This describes the development of the Fascist corporative state under Mussolini. This had its origins in the ideas of radical nationalist Syndicalists, such as Michele Bianchi, Livio Ciardi and Edmondo Rossoni, and the Nationalists under Alfredo Rocco. It was also influenced by Alceste De Ambris’ constitution for D’Annunzio’s short-lived regime in Fiume. It traces the process by which the Fascists established the new system, in which the parliamentary state was gradually replaced by government by the corporations, industrial organisations which included both the Fascist trade unions and the employers’ associations, and which culminated in the creation of Mussolini’s Chamber of Fasci and Corporations. It shows how this was used to crush the working class and suppress autonomous trade union activism in favour of the interests of the corporations and the state. The system was a failure, designed to give a veneer of ideological respectability to Mussolini’s personal dictatorship, and the system was criticised by the radical Fascists Sergio Panunzio and Angelo Olivetti, though they continued to support this brutal dictatorship.

Non-Fascist Corporativism

This discusses the way the British state also tried to include representatives of the trade unions and the employers in government, economic planning and industrial policies, and suppress strikes and industrial unrest from Lloyd George’s administration during the First World War. This included the establishment of the Whitley Councils and industrial courts. From 1929 onwards the government also embarked on a policy of industrial diplomacy, the system of industrial control set up by Ernest Bevin during the Second World War under Defence Regulation 58a. It also discusses the corporative policies pursued by successive British governments from 1959 to Mrs Thatcher’s election victory in 1979. During these two decades, governments pursued a policy of economic planning administered through the National Economic Development Council and a prices and incomes policy. This system became increasingly authoritarian as governments attempted to curtail industrial militancy and strike action. The Social Contract, the policy of co-operation between the Labour government and the trade unions, finally collapsed in 1979 during the ‘Winter of Discontent’.

Workers’ Control and Producers’ Chambers in Communist Yugoslavia

This discusses the system of industrial democracy, and workers councils in Communist Yugoslavia. This included a bicameral constitution for local councils. These consisted of a chamber elected by universal suffrage, and a producers’ chamber elected by the works’ councils.

Partial Nationalisation to End Corporate Influence in Parliament

This suggests that the undue influence on parliament of private corporations could be countered, if only partly, if the policy recommended by Italian liberisti before the establishment of the Fascist dictatorship. Those firms which acts as organs of government through welfare contracts, outsourcing or private healthcare contractors should be partially nationalised, as the liberisti believed should be done with the arms industries.

Drawbacks and Criticism

This discusses the criticisms of separate workers’ governmental organs, such as the Russian soviets, by Karl Kautsky. It shows how working class political interests have been undermined through a press dominated by the right. It also shows how some of the theorists of the Council Revolution in Germany, such as Kurt Eisner, saw workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ councils as an extension of democracy, not a replacement. It also strongly and definitively rejects the corporative systems of Saint-Simon and Mussolini. This part of the book recommends that a workers’ chamber in parliament should be organised according to industry, following the example of the TUC and the GNC Trades’ Parliament. It should also include representatives of the unemployed and disabled, groups that are increasingly disenfranchised and vilified by the Conservatives and right-wing press. Members should be delegates, in order to prevent the emergence of a distinct governing class. It also shows how the working class members of such a chamber would have more interest in expanding and promoting industry, than the elite business people pursuing their own interests in neoliberal economics. It also recommends that the chamber should not be composed of a single party. Additionally, a workers’ chamber may in time form part of a system of workers’ representation in industry, similar to the Yugoslav system. The chapter concludes that while the need for such a chamber may be removed by a genuine working class Labour party, this has been seriously weakened by Tony Blair’s turn to the right and partial abandonment of working class interests. Establishing a chamber to represent Britain’s working people will be immensely difficult, but it may be a valuable bulwark against the domination of parliament by the corporate elite.

I’m considering publishing it myself in some form or another, possibly through the print on demand publisher, Lulu. In the meantime, if anyone wants to read a sample chapter, just let me know by leaving a comment.


Brian Stableford and David Langford on Automation, Unemployment and Retraining in the 21st Century

January 5, 2017

Over the past year there have been a number of warnings that within the next three decades, 2/3 of all jobs could vanish due to mechanization. The science fiction writers Brian Stableford and David Langford also cover this projected crisis in their fictitious history of the thousand years from the beginning of this century to the end of the 29th, The Third Millennium (London: Paladin Grafton Books 1988). They predict that governments and society will find a solution to this in life-long learning and direction of the unemployment into the construction industry for a massive programme of public works.

They write

Massive Unemployment in the West
By the year 2000 automation was having such a significant effect on manufacturing that unskilled and semi-skilled workers were being made redundant in large numbers. Less skilled holders of ‘white-collar jobs’ were also being displaced by information technology. There seemed no immediate prospect of redeploying these workers, and their increasing numbers were a source of embarrassment to many Western governments. In the Soviet countries, where employment was guaranteed, jobs were found, but it was becoming all too obvious that many of these were unnecessary. The communist countries had other problems too. The political power to redeploy labour easily was there, and the educational system was better equipped than in the West for practical training, but there were no economic incentives to motivate the workers.

In the West the real problem was p0artly economic and partly educational. Allowing market forces to govern patterns of employment was inefficient. It was not that there was no work – there were chronic housing problems in most of the affected nations, and the need for urban renewal was desperate. Unfortunately, there was no institutional apparatus to divert unused labour to these socially desirable but essentially unprofitable tasks. To pay workers to do such jobs, instead of doling out a pittance to compensate them for not having jobs, would have required massive and politically unacceptable increases in taxation. The educational part of the problem was the absence of effective retraining to allow people to switch easily from one semi-skilled task to another, thus allowing the movement of labour into the new areas of employment.

With hindsight, it is easy to see the pattern of changes that had to occur in both systems, and it may seem ridiculous that it was not obvious what had to be done. In fact, it probably was obvious to many, and the patterns of change were directed by common sense, but there was much superstitious resistance to the evolution of the economic system away from the capitalist and communist extremes.

Lifelong education
The educational reforms were easier to implement in the West than the economic reforms (though even education tended to be dominated by tradition, and was certainly not without its superstitions). it became accepted in the course of the early twenty-first century the adaptability of labour was a priority. It was simply not sufficient for an individual to learn a skill while still at school, or during an apprenticeship, and then to expect his skill to remain in demand throughout his lifetime. By the year 2010, the idea that a man or woman ought to have a single ‘educational phase’ early in life was becoming obsolete in the developed nations, and educational institutions were being adapted to provide for people of all ages, who would visit and use them continually or periodically, by choice as well as by necessity. By 2050 there was an almost universally accepted opinion in the West that ‘an education’ was something that extended over an entire lifetime. The old familiar cliché ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ was now beginning to take on a musty air, like something in Chaucerian English, approaching its near-incomprehensibility to the average citizen of today.

Enforced growth of the public sector
Despite the robotization of many manufacturing processes, the demand for manual labour did not decline markedly during the twenty-first century. To some extent, displaced factory-workers were shifted into various kinds of building work in the private sector. But it was the expansion of public sector construction and maintenance that kept the demand high. There were, of course, special opportunities created by the building of the information networks, and much manual work as a result of flooding, but there was a more fundamental reason for the state’s increased need for manual workers. As society became more highly technological, depending on an ever-increasing range of complicated artefacts, more and more work had to be put into reconstructing and repairing the artificial environment. Because maintenance work, unlike most manufacturing processes, is occasional and idiosyncratic rather than ceaseless and repetitive, it cannot – even to this day – be whole turned over to machines. Machinery is vital to such work, but so are human agents. Governments employed more and more people to do centrally organized work, and collected the taxes they needed to do it.

There were no such redeployment prospects for the redundant white-collar workers. As their jobs disappeared, they had to undertake more radical retraining, and it was mostly these workers who moved into such new jobs as were being created by the spread of the information networks. Their skills had to be ‘upgraded’, but the same was true of the manual labourers, who had a least to become more versatile. The working population as a whole needed to be better educated, if only in the sense of being always able to learn new skills. Relative few individuals lacked the capacity for this kind of education, and the vast majority adapted readily enough. (pp. 98-100)

I’m not sure how realistic the solutions Stableford and Langford propose are. Looking back, some of the book’s predictions now seem rather dated. For example, the book takes it for granted that the Communist bloc would continue to exist, whereas it collapsed in eastern Europe very swiftly in the years following the book’s publication.

I also think the idea of lifelong learning has similarly been abandoned. It was very popular in the late 1980s and the 1990s, when higher education was expanding rapidly. But there has certainly been a reaction against the massive expansion of university education to the extent that half of the population are now expect to acquire degrees. Critics of the expansion of graduate education have pointed out that it has not brought the greater innovation and prosperity that was expected of it, and has served instead to take jobs away from those without an academic background as graduates are forced instead to take unskilled jobs.

I also think that it’s highly debatable whether the expansion of the construction industry on public works would compensate for the jobs lost through further mechanisation. Even if the government were to accept the necessity of raising taxes to finance such ‘make work’ programmes. My guess is that they’d simply carry on with the ‘workfare’ policy of forcing the unemployed to work on such projects as were strictly necessary in return for their unemployment benefit.

As for the various retraining programmes, some schemes like this have been tried already. For example, back in the 1990s some councils ran programmes, which gave free computer training to the unemployed. But I can see any further retraining schemes launched in the future being strictly limit in scope, and largely cosmetic. The point of such programmes would be to give the impression that the government was tackling the problem, whereas in fact the government would be only too eager for the situation to carry on as it is and keep labour cheap and cowed through massive unemployment.

I also don’t believe that the jobs created by the expansion of information technology will also be adequate to solve the problems. To be fair, the next paragraph from the passage above states that these solutions were only partly successful.

Of course, this situation could all change over the next three decades. But I can see no real solutions to the increasingly desperate problem of unemployment unless neoliberalism is completely discarded along with the Tories, Lib Dems and Blairite Labour, which support it.

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.

Lloyd George, Keynsianism, Mosley and the Tory Privatisation of Government Job Creation

April 19, 2014


British Liberal Prime Minister Lloyd George, used government work creation schemes to combat unemployment.

A few weeks ago, Alittleecon on his blog suggested that unemployment could be combatted through a government programme of public works. The unemployed could be retrained as the workers and professionals the economy needs, and the scheme would itself stimulate further economic growth. The money spent by the government would thus pay for itself several times over. See his post, ‘If the Private Sector’s Not Doing It, Doesn’t Mean Its Not Worth Doing’ at

Alittleecon is very definitely a person of the left, and governments across the political spectrum under the influence of Keynsian economic have adopted similar public works programmes to stimulate the economy. The Japanese government, for example, has embarked on a massive campaign of road construction, as well as building airports and other parts of the transport infrastructure in order to counter the massive depression their economy experienced in the late 1990s and noughties.

Oswald Mosley and Government Public Works for Creating Employment

The British would-be Fascist dictator, Oswald Mosley, also recommended using a programme of public works and employee retraining to tackle unemployment in his 1968 autobiography, My Life (London: Thomas Nelson). He wrote:

The other sphere in which the government must give a decisive lead is in the organisation of public works on a great scale. In an island or even a continental economy overheating, with the result of inflation, can occur in a condition of full employment. On the other hand, to maintain a large pool of unemployment is inhuman and disastrous to the general morale. The answer to this dilemma of the present system is to avoid overheating and inflation by the restraints of credit policy, while taking up the consequent slack of unemployment in public works. No man should be unemployed, and work should be available to all on a reasonable standard of life in a large public works programme, but there should be sufficient differential to provide incentive to return as soon as possible to normal employment; re-training and re-deployment of labour schemes should always accompany of public works system.

Public works should now be in active preparation in all Western countries to replace in due time the distortions of the economy of the Western world, which are initially caused by the semi-wartime basis of America. When peace finally breaks out, we should be ready with the constructive works of peace to replace the destructive works of America’s small wars and the concomitant arms race. The inflationary movement, resting largely on America’s deficit financing of its wars and arms, can at any time come abruptly to an end, either through peace of the objections of other nations to this financial process. So far, armament race and minor wars have taken up the slack of unemployment which would normally represent the difference between modern industrial potential and effective market demand. This has only been done by distorting the economy and aggravating the eventual problem of peace. To maintain full employment in a real period of peace only two methods are available – inflation, or public works on a great scale. We have already seen the results of inflation in an overheated economy leading to over-full employment, and wages chasing prices in a vicious spiral whose end must be a crash.

The only alternative is a stable price level maintained by a strong credit policy, with the resultant unemployment taken up in public works. The economic effect of public works in dealing with unemployment can be the same as the armament boom, without the disastrous exaggeration of deficit financing. Yet the difference in national, or I hope continental, well-being can be vital. The public works of peace can be integrated in general economic policy and can serve it rather than distort it. State action can prepare the way in works too large for private enterprise, and can thus assist rather than impede it. Such public works of peace in terms of unemployment policy can replace abnormal armament demand, can build rather than damage the economy, can benefit the nation and reduce the menace to mankind. (pp. 493-4).

He also recommended that the government public works programme should be used to replenish and upgrade the housing stock in a campaign of slum clearance and house building to provide homes for young people unable to get on the property ladder.

There is no such waste of wealth and the human spirit as unemployment. It is avoidable, and in a continental economy easily avoidable; it is simply a question of the mechanics of economics which mind and will can master. When demand flags, the market falters and unemployment follows, but we should remember there is no ‘natural’ limit to demand; the only limitation is the failure of our intelligence and will. It sounded fantastic long ago in the House of Commons when a wise Labour leader of clear mind and calm character, J.R. Clynes, said there is no limit to real demand until every street in our cities looks like the front of the Doge’s Palace at Venice; and not even then. He was quite right, there is no limit to demand, only to our power to produce, and then to organise distribution. Certainly, there is no limit to demand while the slums disgrace our main cities and young married couples have to live with their parents for lack of accommodation. for years I have urged a national housing programme like an operation of war; the phrase was picked up and used long after as what is called a gimmick in contemporary politics; yet nothing was done about it. I meant it, and it can be done. (p. 495).

There is nothing uniquely Fascist about this programme. Mosley was an early convert to Keynsianism, and took his idea of using public works to combat unemployment from Lloyd George. In the ‘Mosley Memorandum’ he issued in 1929 when he was a member of the Labour party, he recommended using a mixture of public works and purchasing credits issued to the population as a means of stimulating the economy. Economists looking at this policy since then have given their approval, and believed that it would have worked. This does not, of course, justify anything else Mosley advocated, such as the megalomania that saw him as the future British dictator, the hatred of democracy and liberal British institutions, the violence, the bizarre ideas of using evolution to create a new, higher human type, and the poisonous and vicious racism and anti-Semitism that would have led Mosley in power to create an apartheid state. Despite Mosley’s claims to the contrary, his biographer, Stephen Dorril, has stated that if he had come to power and allied with Nazi Germany, then he would have become an accomplice in Hitler’s genocide of the Jews.


Louis Blanc and 19th Century National Workshops in France

In fact, the use of public works as a means of lowering unemployment was used as early as 1848 in France. The pioneering French Socialist, Louis Blanc, had recommended setting up a system of ‘National Workshops’ to provide jobs for unemployed workers, who would be paid at the rate of two Francs a day. The profits made from these jobs would be used to purchase more workshops until the economy was completely socialised. This met with very strong opposition from the French government, including the minister charged with implementing the policy. Blanc was not included on the five-man Executive Commission which replaced the provisional government. the Comte de Falloux, the leading spokesman for the Conservative right, attacked the Workshops because he believed they constituted the threat of working class, Socialist revolution. The jobs created were thus pointless, miserably paid tasks like digging ditches, only to fill them in at the end of the day and the Workshops themselves were later closed down in June 1848.

A proper policy today of creating new jobs through public works and retraining, such as that recommended by Mosley, would almost certainly be strongly opposed by the current political class. It contradicts Neoliberal dogma that private enterprise is always better for the economy and society, and that state interference should be as limited as possible. Obama’s bail-out of the American banks and his policies designed to combat the recession that followed, have been strongly attacked by Libertarians. Following von Hayek and Mises, they see government policies as making the crisis worse and prolonging it. It would also be attacked for contradicting the government’s austerity programme, and the automatic assumption that the only fiscally responsible course of action to adopt in a recession is to cut public expenditure. I also have no doubt that some of the arguments used against such a policy would be that it was recommended and used by Fascist dictators and leaders like Mussolini, Hitler and Mosley.


Workfare Not Programme to Create Jobs, but Supply Cheap Labour to Industry

Nevertheless, there is the expectation that the government should act positively to combat unemployment, rather than leave the economy to correct itself automatically. The various job creation schemes like the Youth Opportunities Programme in the 1980s, and the Work Programme, as well as various internships and trainee schemes launched by private industry in partnership with the government are proof of this. So also are the various retraining schemes that have also been launched by successive administrations, like the computer courses Blair set up for the unemployed. The Coalition has, however, tried to avoid actually creating any real jobs directly through the use of private contractors. Instead of unemployment being created through the economy and the structure of society, the Tories and Tory Democrats instead have adopted the old Victorian view that it is caused by the idleness or moral weakness of the jobless themselves. Hence the bullying and humiliation by jobcentre staff and the system of sanctions, ostensibly intended to motivate the unemployed to look harder for work. Neoliberal economics recommends a constant unemployment rate of 6 per cent to keep wages low, and the Work Programme, internships and trainee schemes, as well as various apprenticeship programmes are structured not to create work, but to keep the contracting business supplied with cheap labour. They are intended to present the illusion that the government is seriously tackling the problem of unemployment, while really doing as little as possible to tackle it seriously.

These highly exploitative schemes should be discontinued, and the government instead should embark on a genuine programme of state job creation following the interventionist ideas of Louis Blanc, Lloyd George and Keynes. But I doubt this will ever occur. It would contradict decades-old Thatcherite notions of what constitutes government expenditure, as well as outrage the Conservatives and big business with the prospect of a revived, working class, which would not have to depend on private industry for the privilege of obtaining unpaid or low paid jobs.