Posts Tagged ‘Railways’

Right-Wing Belfield Rants about Foreigners Owning British Airlines, But Blame Thatcher for Privatising It

October 11, 2021

Alex Belfield got himself well and truly worked up today, and delivered an angry rant about British Airlines. This is because it has, in the name of diversity, decided not to address their customers as ‘ladies and gentlemen’. I have to say I’m not impressed either by this harmless, customary address being ditched in the name of what just looks to me like modish virtue signaling. I think the decision has been taken at BA because, a month or so ago, a person of indeterminate gender got upset and wrote an angry letter to one of the regional train companies because their station announcements included the phrase. This individual thought it excluded non-binary peeps like themselves. This individual also seems to be have been the LGBTQ+ officer for their local Labour party, so I think their letter was a piece of social activism rather than simply a piece of genuine personal affront. Or so it was painted by the right-wing Lotus Eaters in their determination to find anything to discredit the Labour party.

But Belfield’s rant then went on to include the terrible, overpriced food on the airline, and complained that it was no longer really British, as it had been bought by foreigners. Well yes, it has, along with all the other utilities that were privatised by Maggie Thatcher. They should have been kept in government – in our – ownership. But I suppose it’s too much for him to grasp that, as he seems to think that Thatcher was patriotic. His rant shows that clip of Thatcher wrapping a paper hanky round a model of a British Airlines plane’s tailfin to cover up the weird ethnic design that the company had decided to use to replace the union flag following the 1981/2 riots. Now I actually think Thatcher was right about the flag. It was British Airlines, and I see absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about in the British flag as our centuries old national symbol.

But however patriotic Thatcher was, or claimed to be, her privatisations have been ruinous and have harmed Britain ever since. In fact, I’d say that there were firmly unpatriotic.

But you could never get a staunch Tory like Belfield to admit that.

Oh yes, and Belfield begins his rant by saying that he wanted to be a pilot when he was young, but was only a kid from a pit village and never got the necessary school qualifications. One of the lads I grew up with is a pilot in America. He comes from an ordinary home and went to the local comprehensive. But it is difficult, as the British pilot training and exams including some very hard mathematics that other countries don’t. Maths that I’ve been told are only in there to make it hard for poorer students to pass as opposed to the rich.

If this is true, it’s pure class discrimination which really needs to go, never mind silly worries about the correct, gender neutral greeting for passengers.

Loach’s Documentary Shows Why We Still Need the Attlee Government

October 4, 2021

The Spirit of ’45, director Ken Loach, Dogwoof, Sixteenfly Limited, British Film Institute & Channel 4.. Running time 92 minutes, with 420 minutes of extras, 2013 release.

This superb documentary provides great evidence for one of the real reasons Keef Stalin has purged Loach from the Labour party. Quite apart from being a staunch critic of Israeli barbarism, Loach is a socialist whose films show the misery, poverty and degradation inflicted by capitalism. This documentary shows not just the great achievements of Attlee’s reforming government of 1945, but why we still need these reforms today. Why, indeed, we do need to turn the clock back against the Thatcherites to 1945 again. And as an ardent Thatcherite, that’s something Keef and his cohorts really can’t tolerate.

The film consists of interviews with ordinary men and women, former workers in the affected industries, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals as well as academics, along with interviews and footage from the period. These include tales of real struggle and hardship, often moving, and sometimes inspiring anger. It begins by describing the horrendous conditions people lived in before the foundation of the welfare state. One man describes how, as a child, he and his four siblings lived in a slum crawling with vermin. They had to sleep in the same bed, infested with lice and fleas. This is accompanied by footage showing a hand turning over blankets in a bed in which just about every inch was alive with such parasites. And the man recalls that after a night of this, he was beaten at school for having dirty knees.

The film states that the welfare state and its founders were determined not to repeat the situation following the First World War, where demobbed troops returned to unemployment, depression and poverty. The film is divided into sections for each part of the economy that was nationalised – coal, the Railways, the NHS, housing and electricity.

There had been demands for the nationalisation of the coal industry for decades. It was divided between various coal companies, some of which were extremely small. These companies were individually too poor to pay the miners a decent, living wage. Former miners describe how hard and dangerous conditions were. Miners were paid according to the amount of coal they hewed. They weren’t paid for putting up the props that stopped the mine shafts collapsing. As a result, not enough props were put up and terrible accidents followed. One man recalled seeing one his workmates killed in just such a rock fall because not enough props were put up. Nationalisation resulted in much better conditions, but disappointed many of the miners. They were hoping for something like workers’ control. Instead the same people were left in charge, including one manager, who was appointed leader of the industry, who had written extensively against nationalisation. Naturally this left many miners angry and disappointed.

Medicine before the NHS for working people was poor and expensive. Some workers were covered by insurance schemes for their industries, allowing them to see panel doctors. This did not, however, according to the film, cover their families. I’m not sure about this, because my mother remembers cases in Bristol where family members were seen by the panel doctor, but this may have been the exception. You had to pay to see a doctor, and they weren’t cheap. Very low paid workers, like farm labourers, were paid six shillings a week, and seeing the doctor could cost one of those. Patients were very often in debt to their doctors, who employed debt collectors. Death from disease was common. One man angrily recalls how he became an atheist after the death of his mother, who died following complications in childbirth because she could not afford proper treatment or an abortion. One former GP tells how he went round to call on a family of his patients the very day after the foundation of the NHS. When he inquired after the boy he’d been treating, the mother informed him he was well. But the man could hear coughing, and so continued to ask. The mother replied that the coughing was his brother, who was recovering because they’d given him half of the bottle of cough medicine he’d given to the other boy. When the doctor said he could still hear coughing, the woman replied that it was her mother. When the doctor offered to treat her, she refused, saying they couldn’t afford him. The doctor replied that this morning they could. This part of the documentary includes comments from Jacky Davis, a great campaigner for the NHS and one of the editors, with Ray Tallis, of the excellent book, NHS – SOS.

The railways before nationalisation were in a comparable state as the mines. The rail network was divided between different companies, who also owned their own track. As a result, services by the different railway companies frequently interfered with each other. One old railways worker recalls how one train going to Exeter was held up for half an hour by a train from another company. And the system was incredibly bureaucratic. The first thing to go at nationalisation was the clearing house. This was a massive office of 50+ clerks just passing chits to each other as the various companies billed each other for the use of their services. I suspect something similar goes on in the privatised railways when you buy a ticket that involves more than one network.

The film also describes the massive improvement in housing that came with the government’s programme of building council houses. There were queues to get into these, with many workers amazed that they would live in such massively improved conditions.

The film also covers the nationalisation of the electricity network, with an historian stating that it was generally agreed that it made more sense to nationalise it and amalgamate it into one company than leave it in the hands of a multitude of competing small companies.

The film moves on to the destruction of the welfare state following the election of St. Margaret of Monetarism. All of these have been disastrous. The spit up of the railways led to a series of terrible train disasters, with the companies involved refusing to accept responsibility and blaming each other. It was so appalling that the track had to be renationalised in 2002.

As for the NHS, service is becoming worse as the government has privatised more of it. NHS workers and ordinary folk made it very clear how much they hate its privatisation. One gentleman says that those who want to see it sold off should be put in a bottomless boat, sent out in the North Sea, and told to swim back. I quite agree. Jacky Davis makes it clear that this isn’t making the service cheaper or more economical. Under the NHS, administration costs were 6 per cent. A little while ago they were 12 per cent. Now they’re heading up to American levels of 18-24 per cent.

The NHS has become less efficient because of four decades of Thatcherite privatisation, all for the profit of private healthcare companies.

The film is a superb piece of social history and documentation, directed by one of the masters of British cinema. And makes a very strong case for socialism. Attlee and his government weren’t without their faults, but they created the modern welfare state following the Beveridge Report. This shaped British society for more than three decades afterwards, and which still demands our support against the attacks of the likes of Blair, Starmer and Boris.

Is Keef Stalin Planning to Lose the Next Election So Streeting Can Be the New Blair?

October 1, 2021

It’s a horrifying thought, but that’s what this fortnight’s edition of Private Eye suggests in their piece, ‘Project Keir’ in the ‘H.P. Sauce’ column on page 14. They speculate that Starmer is deliberately planning to lose the next election so that he will be replaced by Wes Streeting, who will win the following election. He seems himself as the new Neil Kinnock, who lost his election but prepared the way for the success of Tony Blair. The article runs

“Don’t let anyone tell you that this is a two-term project,” shadow minister Wes Streeting told moderate group Labour First at his party’s conference last weekend. This phrase is familiar to the party’s right: a two-term project would mean Keir Starmer losing the next election but his sacrifice clearing the way for a properly moderate leader.

It was an acknowledgment that many on Labour’s right – including some in Starmer’s office – believe the leader’s focus on fixing Labour’s internal selections might not impress voters but will clear out the hard left, subdue the soft left and prepare the ground for the only way they believe Labour can win: Starmer must be a “Kinnock”, who loses elections but clears the way for a Blair figure who ultimately wins.” The rest of the article describes how Keef and his minions are already in talks with various big businesses. Well, Starmer is a Blairite, and Blair became notorious for granting favours to big corporations, including seats in government, in return for donations.

Before I start critiquing the article proper, look at the bias in its writing. Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are ‘hard left’. Labour First is ‘moderate’. Not so. Jeremy Corbyn is actually very traditional Old Labour: a mixed economy, strong welfare state, properly nationalised and funded NHS, and strong trade unions. He wants the nationalisation of the utilities and the railways, which was the social democratic consensus, accepted by both Labour and the Tories, from 1945 to 1979 and the election of Maggie Thatcher. This is far less than the demands for further nationalisation from the real communist and Trotskyite left, who sneer at reformist socialist politicians like Corbyn. And Labour First is not remotely moderate. It’s far right in the same way Blair was far right. Blair was further right than the Tories in many issues. The Conservatives had tried taking schools out of the control of the LEAs, the precursors of Blair’s academies, found that they didn’t work and duly binned them. Blair took the idea out of the bin and then expanded it. He also went much further in privatising the NHS than the Tories dared. At the 2008 elections Cameron pretended to be further left than Blair in order to win. I think this lost him votes from traditional hard right Tory voters, but unfortunately it did give him the keys to 10 Downing Street. And we’ve been suffering ever since.

This scheme all depends on several factors, one of which is whether Starmer truly realises he’s going to lose the next election. He certainly doesn’t seem like it. Despite losing a whole series of local authorities and constituencies, including the north, he seems determined to present what few seats Labour did retain up north as stunning victories. In fact in many of them Labour only managed to scrape in. Now I think Starmer really is hoping that Tory voters, along with big business and the media, will turn to him, or his version of the Labour party, when they get sick of the Tories and their incompetence. But that’s a dangerous assumption. Blair was able to win over Murdoch and the majority of the press, but the Daily Mail held on to its wretched principles and carried on supporting the Tories. There is no guarantee that the British public, media and business will embrace Streeting if Labour does lose the next election and Starmer makes way for him. And even if Streeting did win the following election, it would probably be by a smaller number of people voting than actually voted in the 2019 election. At the 2017 election, Corbyn lost with a higher number of people voting for him than Blair did when he won. It’s been forgotten that when Blair was in power, people drifted away from Labour en masse and that there was a general feeling of alienation and disenfranchisement. People didn’t feel the parties represented them and some of them stopped voting. This will happen again, even if Streeting or someone like him wins.

And its dangerous, because when people feel alienated from supposedly democratic parties, they turn to the real extremists, the Communists or Fascists. Both of those are pretty much dead at the moment, despite the screams about Corbyn, but they could well revive, if under a less extreme guise, like UKIP or the Brexit party at the elections a few years ago.

My own guess is that such a plan would destroy Labour, at least as a mass party. Starmer treats the rank and file members with contempt, and as result they’re leaving. Without their membership subscriptions, Labour is facing bankruptcy. Starmer has also driven away the baker’s union, BFAWU, so he went get any money from that union either. If he drives further unions away, which he well might, that could provoke an even worse financial crisis. He needs those donations from big business, but there’s no guarantee he’ll get them.

Starmer’s slowly turning Labour into a minor party with little funding and small membership, also so he can appeal to business and hopefully get his rear end, or Streetings into power. It’s a truly risky strategy, and could kill the party long before either he or Streeting get anywhere close.

And as they’re doing this, they’re damaging democracy by ignoring the electorate and its wishes in favour of big business. A few years ago a report by Harvard University concluded that America was no longer a functioning democracy because of this. Instead it was a plutocracy or something like it, government by the rich.

Which is exactly what Starmer will bring in here.

We Own It: Hacks Waking Up to Failure of Privatisation

September 30, 2021

I’ve said many times on this blog that Thatcher’s privatisation of the utilities and the railways has been an utter, complete, unmitigated failure and that these services should be renationalised. I am very pleased to say that a number of mainstream hacks are finally waking up to this. I got this email from anti-privatisation, pro-NHS group ‘We Own It’ reporting that journos on the Times, Torygraph, Herald and the Guardian have written pieces criticising privatisation. They also describe how various rail companies have had to be renationalised, and that nationalisation is part of Labour’s Green New Deal and Shadow Transport Secret Jim McMahon supports the renationalisation of the railways. It also castigates Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves for opposing nationalisation on ideological grounds, even when they claim the complete opposite.

“Dear David,

People are waking up to the fact that privatisation has failed the UK for nearly 40 years.

In the Times, Jon Yeomans talks about Thatcher’s sell offs, saying “More than 30 years later, Britain lives with the consequences of that 1980s revolution. From buses to trains to energy, there are signs that the wheels may be coming off.”

In the Herald, Lesley Riddoch asks on behalf of frustrated Scots “Is there any way to escape privatised Britain other than independence?”

Scotland is bringing its railway into public ownership.

Wales is bringing its railway into public ownership.

The East Coast line was brought into public ownership in 2018 (it’s now run by the government’s operator of last resort).

The Northern franchise was brought into public ownership in 2020.

And this week Southeastern, after defrauding the government of £25 million, has also been brought into public hands.

As the Telegraph (yes, the Telegraph) says “the Southeastern debacle exposes the failure of Britain’s rail privatisation”.

It’s not just rail – with Covid, the bus ‘market’ (never much of a market) is collapsing.

The Guardian comments on the proposed merger of Stagecoach and National Express, saying “Passengers, who have seen rail fares rocket and local bus services wither, may also hope this signals the end of a chapter when a few could profit so enormously from an essential public service.”

Meanwhile Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, who has committed to re-regulating the buses there (a victory of our campaign!) comments about himself and Mayors Tracy Brabin and Dan Jarvis “Between us we are rolling back the 1980s, we are overturning the Thatcher legacy.”

At the Labour party conference, shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband talked about the Green New Deal, committing to “a green Britain where public and alternative models of ownership play their proper role in making the transition affordable, secure and fair.”

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon confirmed his support for public ownership of rail and buses.

And Labour delegates voted for a Green New Deal, including public ownership of transport and energy, with speech after inspiring speech explaining why this is needed.

Despite all of this, Keir Starmer (who hasn’t responded yet to our open letter) and his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have said they don’t support nationalising the energy supply companies. They’ve said they don’t want to be “ideological” about it.

But the truth, as Cat writes in the Guardian today, is that privatisation is an extreme ideological experiment that has failed us all for decades, and people have had enough of it.

When the Times, the Telegraph, the Herald and the Guardian are questioning privatisation, when more and more of our railway is being brought into public ownership, when Mayors are re-regulating buses, and when the energy market is in crisis – there’s a shift happening.

On moral and on economic grounds, privatisation just isn’t making sense anymore.

Don’t tell Sid

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Zana and Anna – the We Own It team

PS Who’s Sid? In 1986, when Thatcher sold off British Gas, the company was floated on the stock market, accompanied by the famous ‘Tell Sid’ advertising campaign.

This shows precisely how out of touch, far right and ideological Starmer and Reeves are. They’re still pushing Thatcherism when it’s increasingly obvious that Thatcherism is dying. As for the Tory privatisation slogan in the 1980s, this was ‘If you see Sid, tell him’. It was a hidden gibe at Sidney Webb and the Fabians, who advocated the nationalisation of the utilities. Now it seems Sid is may just have the last laugh yet.

If you see Maggie, tell her: privatisation is disaster.

Tories Planning Possible Temporary Nationalisation of Energy and Railways

September 28, 2021

This is very, very interesting. After Conference voted yesterday for the nationalisation of the electricity companies, it seems that the Tories are considering a similar measure, if only as a temporary solution to the energy crisis. Johnson’s government is considering intervening to ensure that no customers are cut off as firms fail. According to the Independent, the business secretary, Kwesi Kwarteng, is not only holding talks with the energy companies and has spoken to Ofgem, the energy regulator, he has also indicated that he is prepared to appoint a temporary administrator for firms the government may take into public ownership as a temporary solution to the crisis.

And the government has also taken over Southeast Trains. Well, the government has been briefly taking over failing train companies for the past ten years or so, because John Major’s privatisation of British Rail is a far greater disaster than anything served up in the former company’s cafes. This latest nationalisation is also going to be temporary, but it shows how much of a failure privatisation has been. The only solution is to nationalisation the utilities permanently.

But Starmer’s Labour leadership really doesn’t want to do that. Mike’s article quotes a tweet by the mighty Aaron Bastani parodying a statement by the ghastly Rachel Reeves as saying that it’s not the right time for nationalisation and that the demand for it is ‘ideological’. As Bastani says, it’s precisely the moment. And as Mike says, it shows that Labour is now more right-wing than the Tories. He goes on to say:

‘Reeves made herself and her boss sound like idiots – which, of course, they are.

Their protestations – her yesterday (September 27), him on Sunday (September 26) – weren’t pragmatic, no matter how often they tried to shoehorn that word into their comments.

They were ideological – exactly what Reeves and Starmer were trying to deny.

But it’s a stupid ideology.

Starmer’s entire policy is: butter up the business bosses. He is convinced that if he sucks up to the fat cats, they’ll support him into government after the next election. He is wrong for a very obvious reason.

Business leaders really are pragmatic. They can see that Brexit has created serious issues for the energy firms, for fuel supply and in other areas due to knock-on effects, and they acknowledge that their firms would be better-off under government control for the duration of the problem.

In other words: by lurching leftwards towards privatisation, Boris Johnson has done the right thing.

And where does this leave Starmer (and Reeves)?

Absolutely nowhere. Not only are they out of touch with party members; they are out of touch with the entire United Kingdom.

Absolutely. I remember talking to a co-worker years ago when the Financial Times was still a Liberal paper. It had run an article which definitely supported a publicly-owned NHS. I found this odd considering that the FT is the paper of financial capitalism, and so I’d expected it to be in favour of privatisation. My co-worker explained to me that the firms supplying the NHS would not want the Health Service broken up, because dealing with a single, large company is much easier for them.

There was absolutely no opposition from the Tories when Labour nationalised electricity in 1945, or indeed any of the utilities, because they knew very well it made absolute, perfect sense. It was nonsense having Britain’s electricity produced by a number of separate, competing companies.

And Ken Loach’s magnificent documentary, The Spirit of 45, shows that the same problems existed when the railways were split up into different companies. The trains running from the different companies along their separately owned pieces of track frequently intersected with each other and caused delays. And the first thing that was got rid of after nationalisation was the massive clearing house which consisted of well over a hundred different clerks passing chits to each other. These were representatives of the different railway companies passing notes billing each other for the use of their different pieces of track and train services.

Privatisation is a mess. It doesn’t work, and has been repeatedly shown not to work.

But Starmer and the appalling Reeves don’t want to admit that. Part of this comes from the fear they’ll get from the right-wing press, with whom Starmer is desperate to ingratiate himself. And much of it is ideological. I can remember a piece by Brian Gould in one of the left-wing broadsheets back in the 1980s talking about how he tried to argue with the-then Labour leadership that free market economics was not the solution. But it was pointless. Their eyes were all aglow with the light of the religious convert. Starmer is the heir to Blair and Thatcher.

And Thatcher’s privatisations were also considered bonkers at the time. I’ve been told that the orthodox view taken by economists in the 1970s was that, while free trade and private industry worked perfectly well in many sectors, it could not be applied to the utilities. Thatcher’s privatisations were a shocking divergence from mainstream economics, whatever nonsense the Tory press and media talked boosting them. As for Monetarism, Robin Ramsay, the main man behind conspiracies ‘zine Lobster, has said that when he studied economics in the 1970s Monetarism was considered so ludicrous and stupid lecturers hardly considered it worth mentioning. Monetarism noisily died the death in the 1990s, with even the Daily Heil publishing articles arguing it was a failure.

Starmer and Reeves are well out of touch. Now is exactly the right time to demand nationalisation.

But they’re too blinded by Thatcherism to realise this. Or perhaps it would be better to use a phrase of the Iron Lady’s about her opponents: they’re ‘frit’.

Thatcherism is a failure. It’s pure Zombie economics. It should have died years ago, but it’s kept stumbling on by right-wing politicians like the Tories and Starmer out of a mixture of ideology and desire to benefit the rich rather than the working class.

Brexit Britain’s Collapse also Reveals Failure of Free Market Capitalism

September 26, 2021

I wonder sometimes if the Communists and Trotskyites didn’t throw in the towel too soon. They were always looking for the collapse of capitalism, and while that didn’t happen and probably won’t, they would have realised that Thatcherism, at least, isn’t working and made real efforts to make the British public realise it. Communism collapsed with the velvet revolution in eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the countries of the former Soviet bloc threw off their chains and embraced democracy and free market capitalism. Francis Fukuyama declared that it was ‘the end of history’. Liberalism in the broad sense of the mixture of liberal democracy and capitalism, had seen off its rivals and would now reign supreme and unchallenged as the global ideology bringing peace, freedom – both political and economic – and prosperity to everyone.

But it hasn’t worked out like that.

Thatcher’s privatisation of the public utilities here in Britain haven’t brought the necessary investment these sectors needed. As Ken Loach’s superb documentary, The Spirit of 45, makes very clear, the power, water and railway industries are natural monopolies that need national planning and support. This has been particularly shown time and again in the management of the railways. Major’s privatisation of British Rail in the 1990s and its breakup into separate companies resulted in a spate of horrendous train crashes. Insult was added to injury by the rail companies passing the buck and accusing each other of responsibility for the disasters. As a result, the company owning the railway network itself, Railtrack, had to be renationalised in 2002. Privatisation did not work. And it has continued to fail with the private railways companies. Several have had to be taken back into state administration after providing poor service. However, this has always been excused as a temporary measure and the government has insisted on finding some other private company to run those services afterwards. After a series of such failures, this strategy now looks more than a little desperate. It’s an attempt to fend off the obvious: that private enterprise isn’t providing a proper, decent rail service and the only way to run it properly is to renationalise it.

It is very much the same with the government’s part-privatisation of Britain’s schools. Declining standards in state schools led Thatcher to experiment with privately-run schools outside the control of Local Education Authorities. These were then called ‘city academies’. They were another failure, and her education secretary, Norman Fowler, was forced to wind them up quietly. Unfortunately, Tony Blair thought it was a wizard idea and it became a major part of New Labour education policy. Simply called ‘academies’, these schools would be run by private companies. Some of these would specialise in particularly subjects, such as Maths and science. Expertise from private industry would ensure that standards would be high, and they would provide a powerful incentive through their competition for the remaining state schools to improve their performance. Except that didn’t happen either. The academies don’t perform any better than ordinary state schools once the massive difference in funding is taken into account. An academy may receive tens of millions of funding compared to a fraction of million that the Local Education Authority receives to spend on all the schools it runs. Furthermore, many of the academies have only been able to maintain their high standards through being highly selective about their intakes. Pupils that may not reach the marks demanded by the schools, including those with behavioural problems or who come from poorer families, are often excluded and expelled. Educational performance and standards in many academies has been so abysmal that the chains managing them have collapsed and the schools once again taken into public administration. But private enterprise under the Tories cannot be allowed to fail, and so we had the grim spectacle a few years ago of Nicky Morgan, the Tory education secretary, repeatedly not answering the questions on the Andrew Marr show why the government was pushing ahead with turning schools into academies when just a little while ago 25 academies had had to be taken over by the government again.

Now, thanks to a mixture of Brexit and global problems elsewhere, the gas industry is in crisis. There are shortages of gas, a number of the smaller companies have already collapsed and customers are being faced with sharp price rises. Novara Media have even said that the government has admitted that if there are severe problems with the major gas suppliers, then they will have to be nationalised.

Gas, like electricity, should never have been privatised in the first place. When it was initially privatised, the company was not split up into separate, competing companies and so it was able to dominate the market as a private monopoly. Now some of those companies are suffering because they are unable to cope with free market conditions. This says to me very much that Jeremy Corbyn was right – that the public utilities need to be publicly owned and rationally managed as part of an integrated system. This is another point that Ken Loach’s documentary makes very well.

And Brexit has created further problems. The establishment of a customs border with Eire overturns one of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and so threatens to return Northern Ireland to sectarian violence and chaos. There is a shortage of CO2 as a result of which some foods and other goods may suffer shortages. And there may be further shortages, including petrol and other fuels, because Brexit has also resulted in fewer haulage drivers. Some are even now predicting a new ‘Winter of Discontent’, like that in 1979 that resulted in the defeat of the-then Labour government and the election of Maggie Thatcher.

I remember the petrol crisis of the ’70s, when OPEC suddenly raised oil prices and there were queues at petrol pumps. Just as I remember how Ted Heath’s dispute with the coal miners resulted their strike, the three-day week and power cuts. It got to the point that by the middle of the decade the right were expecting a Communist takeover and the end of civilisation as we know it. There were supposedly private militias being formed by bonkers right-wingers while parts of the establishment wanted to overthrow the minority Labour government in a coup to be replaced by a kind of coalition government composed of representatives from all the parties. Well, that was what the Times discussed in its articles. The security services, however, were forming plans to round up trade unionists and left-wing politicians and activists and intern them on a Scottish island somewhere. The editor of the Mirror went to Sandhurst to interest them in overthrowing the government but was met with a no doubt polite refusal. I think he, or one of the other plotters, even went as far as Paris to see if that old Fascist, Oswald Mosley, would be interested in leading the new government.

All that has been used in the Tory myth that socialism doesn’t work, and only creates the economic and political chaos that helped bring Britain to its knees. Chaos that was only ended by the glorious reign of Maggie.

Except that these problems look like they’re coming back, and this time the fault is Brexit and the free market.

I think Boris will be able to find temporary solutions to alleviate, but not cure, some of these problems. He has, for example, introduced new legislation to encourage lorry drivers from the continent to come over here. But the underlying structural problems remain. The only way to solve them is through nationalisation.

The Labour party is in an excellent position to drive this home, at least in the case of gas. Even if it doesn’t go that far, it should still be landing hard blows on Johnson and the Tories because of Brexit’s massive failures. But Starmer isn’t doing that. Instead, as Zelo Street pointed out in a piece published a day or so ago, the Labour leader is more intent instead on destroying democracy in his party as part of his war on the left.

Which is why I’m almost nostalgic for the old Socialist Workers’ Party. They’re still around, rebranded as ‘the Socialist Party’, but they’re nowhere near as active as they were. Whenever there was any kind of crisis or major issue you could count on them turning up with their megaphones and copies of their newspaper to harangue the masses and demand further action against the problem. Unfortunately, in many cases the Socialist Workers’ Party were the problem. They colonised left-wing issues in an attempt to turn protest groups into front organisations, which they could then use to produce further discontent. Rock Against Racism collapsed when the SWP took over the leadership of that organisation, formed to protest against the rise of Fascism. They were also busy infiltrating the Labour party and other left-wing parties here and abroad with the intention of radicalising them. I think the eventual hope was to create some kind of mass revolutionary movement. It didn’t work, and has only resulted in purges, such as that of Militant Tendency by Kinnock in the 1980s. In fact, the policy has helped strengthen the right in the Labour party, as they smeared Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as Trotskyite infiltrators as the pretext for their continue purge.

The Trotskyites lived, however, in the firm belief that capitalism would eventually fail. Well, it isn’t doing that now, but it should be abundantly clear that Thatcherite free market capitalism isn’t working. The SWP would have realised that and tried to get the message across. The Labour left, which isn’t remotely Trotskyite, realises too that Thatcherism isn’t working. Their solution is simply a return to the mixed economy of the social democratic consensus. This wasn’t perfect, but it operated far better than the free market shambles we have now. And no, mixed economies are not ‘Communist’, ‘Trotskyist’ or ‘far left’. The real Communists and Trotskyists hated it as a form of capitalism, just as they hated reformist socialist parties like Labour.

But Starmer’s leadership is pledged to propping up the same wretched free market capitalism. Which is why I really feel there should be a mass movement driving home the point, again and again, that Thatcherism is ideologically and economically bankrupt. It is doing nothing but producing chaos in the economy and industry, and poverty and starvation to Britain’s working people. And this poverty will get worse. This is why I’m almost nostalgic for the wretched SWP, as they would have been determined to drive this home. And who knows? Perhaps if they behaved like a reasonable party, they might have gained further support and forced the Labour party to rediscover its socialist heritage in order to head off a challenge from real Communists.

Starmer’s 11,500 Word Vision: Blairism Rehashed

September 24, 2021

Last week people were commenting on an 11,500 word piece Starmer had written laying out his vision for the Labour party. There was a rumour going round that it was going to 14,000 words, but mercifully we’ve been spared that. I think Novara Media put up a piece suggesting that it would be 14,000 words in which Starmer says nothing. This would be the same nothing that he says to voters and with which he criticises the Tories. He has precious little to say to them. When questioned a while ago on whether Labour had a particular policy in one specific area, the Labour person questioned replied that they did, but that it was secret. Now it seems Starmer does have policies of his own. He has written that he is not in favour of nationalisation, but that government should be ‘a partner to industry’.

This is Blairism. Blair had Clause IV, the clause in the Labour party’s constitution committing it to nationalisation, removed in the 1990s. Instead, Blair promoted various public-private partnerships with business in public works projects, the building and management of hospitals and health centres and so on. This was Tony’s big idea. The result was the corporatism that mars public administration in America and Britain. Government functions were outsourced to companies like Serco, G4S and Maximus, managers and chief officers from private companies were appointed to government bodies, often those that regulated the very industries from which these officials were drawn. NHS privatisation moved into a higher gear and expanded further than the Tories had pushed it, and schools were handed over to private academy chains.

This has been a massive failure. Tens of schools have had to be taken back into public administration thanks to the failure of the private companies running them. Academies are no better educating their charges than state schools once the far greater expenditure on academies is accounted for. Hospital, GP and other medical services are being cut so the private firms providing them can make a profit. The construction companies with whom Blair5’s government went into partnership to build the country’s infrastructure, like bridges and so on, have gone so regularly over budget that the entire PFI scheme under which they are given contracts has been criticised by the Office of National Statistics as a colossal waste of money. And at a local level, ordinary communities saw their traditional shops closed down by local authorities in favour of the big supermarkets despite the opposition of ordinary people.

The private firms running the utilities are not providing the investment these sectors need. Several of the railway companies have had to be removed from running the trains in their areas and the service taken back into public administration, for example.

Thatcherism is, as one Australian economist described it, ‘zombie politics’. It’s dead and should have been buried years ago, but still lurches on, supported by a neoliberal elite, including the Blairites in the Labour party.

Starmer has nothing to offer but more of this unappetising stuff warmed up. It’s yesterday’s economic left-overs, which were foul and indigestible then, and even worse now.

The only alternative is the socialism Corbyn championed – nationalisation of the utilities, a strong welfare state and the restoration of power to the unions. Everything Starmer hates.

Which is why Starmer must go. He’s an ideologically bankrupt, dictatorial non-entity, who has nothing to offer but more Toryism and Blairite despair and exploitation.

Neil Coyle and Adolf Hitler on the Threat of Jews in Parliament

July 21, 2021

Yesterday I put up a piece attacking Neil Coyle, a Blairite Labour MP, for demanding the expulsion of Jewish Voice for Labour from the Labour party along with other ‘Commies’. I pointed out that it was very much like the anti-Semitic rants of the Nazis, who rejected democracy as a Jewish plot to enslave ‘Aryan’ Germans. For example, in 1922 Hitler gave a speech which explicitly stated it.

And the Right has further completely forgotten that democracy is fundamentally not German: it is Jewish. It has completely forgotten that this Jewish democracy with its majority decisions has always been without exception only a means towards the destruction of any existing Aryan leadership. The Right does not understand that directly every small question of profit or loss is regularly put before so-called ‘public opinion’ he who knows how most skilfully to make this ‘public opinion’ serve his own interests becomes forthwith master in the State. And that can be achieved by the man who can lie most artfully, most infamously: and in the last resort he is not the German, he is, in Schopenhauer’s words, ‘the great master of the art of lying’ – the Jew….

(O)ne day it will turn to those who have most consistently foretold the coming ruin and have sought to disassociate themselves from it. And party is either the Left: and then God help us! for it will lead to us to complete destruction – to Bolshevism.

From: J.W. Hiden, The Weimar Republic (Harlow: Longman 1974).

Coyle’s demand for the expulsion of Jewish Voice for Labour comes from the same vicious factionalism that has resulted in the NEC voting to expel other left-wing groups within the Labour party – Resist, Socialist Appeal, Labour Against the Witch-Hunt and Labour in Exile. It’s the partisan hatred of Blairite neoliberals for real socialists, the kind of people that actually build the Labour party with the trade unions, founded the welfare state and NHS, and gave us the mixed economy. For all its faults, the mixed economy in which the utilities were owned and managed for the state actually provided these vital industries with the investment they needed and gave better service than under privatisation. This is why Blair Stalin, I mean, Kier Starmer, is running scared from these policies which were promoted by Corbyn and supported by a majority of the British public. It’s why the railways are failing spectacularly and the Tories are desperately fighting off having to renationalise them.

But Jewish Voice for Labour, Labour Against the Witch-Hunt and Labour in Exile are also being attacked and smeared because they state and argue unequivocally that the expulsions of Labour party members for supposed anti-Semitism are politically motivated. It’s not just just a hatred of socialists, but also a fanatical desire to protect Israel from reasonable criticism for its barbaric treatment of the Palestinians through conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Many of Israel’s most trenchant critics are decent, self-respecting, God-fearing or secular Jews. People like Jackie Walker, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Tony Greenstein, Ilan Pappe and Martin Odoni. These people are subject to particular abuse, vilification and sometimes even physical assault because they show that the Jewish community is not and has never been uniformly behind Israel, no matter how many laws Netanyahu passed to say that Jewry and the state of Israel were one and the same.

Coyle was undoubtedly motivated by a fear of Marxism and pro-Israel fanaticism when he made his noxious attack on JVL, rather than anti-Semitism per se. But he repeats very closely the real anti-Semitic, anti-democratic and anti-parliamentary denunciations of the Nazis.

Despite the attacks on Corbyn for anti-Semitic tropes, the real Nazi rhetoric is coming from the ultra-Zionists and Blairites.

The 1920s’ View of the Future

January 10, 2021

I found this fascinating video on the ‘1920s Channel’ on YouTube. It’s about the decades view of the future, taken from the pulp magazine, Science and Invention, founded and edited by Hugo Gernsbach. Gernsbach is one of the major figures in 20th century SF. An immigrant to America from Luxembourg, he was passionately enthusiastic about science and technology and founded the first the first SF pulp magazines. He also wrote an SF novel, Ralph 124C41 + A Romance of the Year 2660, and coined the term ‘scientifiction’ to describe the new genre. This was shortened and altered by his successors and rivals to become the modern term.

The channel’s main man says he’s interested in 1920s futurism because it falls between the ‘Steam Punk’ predictions of the Victorians and the ‘Atom Punk’ of the 1950s and 1960s, although it also has some elements of the ‘Diesel Punk’ of the 1940s. He states that the 1920s and the 1950s were similar decades, in that both followed major wars but were periods of optimism. Most of the illustrations were by Frank R. Paul, Gernsbach’s artist, who is now justly respected as one of the foremost pioneers of SF art. Among the inventions and developments the magazine predicted are massive, skyscraper cities now a staple of SF in such classic films as Metropolis and Blade Runner. But the magazine also predicted underground cities, as well as improved scientific instruments like astronomical telescopes, devices for signalling Mars, bizarre machines for taking care of one’s health, like the ‘sun shower’ and health meter. There are new entertainment media, like television and a cinema with four screens, as well as new musical instruments like the Theremin. This last creates sound through the alteration of a magnetic field by the player’s hands. It’s one of the many instruments played by the hugely talented Bill Bailey. The magazine also looked at the vehicles of the future. These included moving walkways, cars and railways. Cars wouldn’t be confined to the road, but would fly, and the magazine also showed the new aircraft of the future. Humanity would master anti-gravity and fly beyond Earth into space. At the same time, new ships and flying boats would cross the oceans, while people would venture underneath the seas in diving suits that somewhat resemble the metallic suits created to withstand the crushing pressures of the ocean depths. And the magazine also predicted that SF staple, the robot. One of these was to be a ‘police automaton’, like Robocop.

The illustrations are taken from worldradiohistory.com, where they’re available for free, and the video is accompanied by some of the music of the period, so be warned!

Futurism Of The 1920s – YouTube

It’s interesting watching the video to see how much of modern SF was formed in the decade, and to compare its predictions with reality. Most of these predictions haven’t actually become reality. Flying cars are still waiting to happen, we don’t have zeppelin aircraft carriers and skyscraper cities haven’t quite become the dominant urban form. Nor do we have truly intelligent machines and robots. On the other hand, I think the ideas and devices Gernsbach and Paul discussed and portrayed in the magazine still have the power to inspire, and think that they would make a great source of ideas for future, aspiring SF writers.

‘I’ Newspaper: Wales Getting Ready to Nationalise Railways

October 23, 2020

Today’s I for 23rd October 2020 has an article by Adam Hale, ‘Railways set to be nationalised’, reporting that the Welsh government is about to nationalise the railways in the principality because of falling passenger numbers due to the Coronavirus crisis. The article runs

The Welsh Government has decided to nationalise its railways following a significant drop in passenger numbers because of coronavirus.

The country’s transport minister Ken Skates said bringing day-to-day rail services for its Wales and Borders franchise under public control would help secure the future of passenger services and protect jobs.

Private firm KeolisAmey has run the franchise in Wales for just two years after taking it over from Arriva Trains Wales.

Mr Skates added that: “The Welsh Government has had to step in with significant support to stabilise the network and keep it running.”

It’s excellent that this is being done. The railways should never have been nationalised. Indeed, in Britain, sections of the rail network have had to be handed back to the state to manage almost as regularly as clockwork. Unfortunately, they’ve always then been given to another private operator because of the dogma that private enterprise is always better and more efficient than the state. Even when it glaringly isn’t, as the past four decades of dismal failure by the privatised utilities companies has abundantly shown.

There is a very strong movement for the railways across Britain to be renationalised, as shown by previous press reports about criticisms of private railway companies and the franchising system. So far, however, many of the recommendations for the system’s reform simply demand alterations to the franchising system. It’ high time this was all stopped, and the rail companies renationalised across Britain.

I’ve no doubt that the Welsh renationalisation will be successful, but it will be uncomfortable for the Tories and New Labour because of their insistence on the absolute primacy of private enterprise. If it is successful, then you can expect articles by some Tories across the border here in England recommending their nationalisation. I think Lady Olga Maitland wrote one for the Tory papers the other year. But there will also be attempts by the Tories to rubbish it, and the Welsh ministers responsible in order to put the voting public off it over here.

Because if the railways are successfully nationalised, who knows where it would stop! The state could start taking over electricity, water, gas and even healthcare. Shocking!

They also might consider it better to feed hungry schoolchildren rather than send them to school starving while wasting money on fat contracts for firms run by Tory ministers and their friends.