Posts Tagged ‘Ramsay McDonald’

Will Keir Starmer Be the 21st Century Ramsay McDonald?

May 2, 2020

This occurred to me a few days ago, thinking about Starmer’s strange decision to offer only constructive criticism of the government and his agreement to serve in a coalition with Johnson if asked. It was a bizarre decision, that either showed Starmer as naive, or far more closely aligned with the Tories at the expense of the left in the Labour party.

In fact there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Starmer, as a man of the Labour right, is basically a Tory in the wrong party. The leaked Labour report shows the Blairites in the party bureaucracy – Iain McNicol, John Stolliday, Emilie Oldknow and the other scum – actively working to make sure that Labour lost the 2017 election. One of them described feeling sick that Corbyn was actually high in the polls, and the intriguers exchanged emails in that the wished that Labour would lose to the Lib Dems or the Tories. One of them was even a moderator on a Tory discussion site, and had such a hatred for his own party that people wondered why he was still in it. Of course, when someone in the Labour party actually raised that question they found it was verboten and they were purged on some trumped up charge. And in at least one of the constituency Labour parties the right-wing leadership actually appealed for Lib Dems and Tories to join when the rank and file started to get Bolshie and demand change and the election of genuine Labour officials. Blair himself was described over and again as a man in the wrong party. He was a Thatcherite neoliberal. He stood for private enterprise and the privatisation of the NHS, although with the caveat that he still believed in free universal healthcare paid for by the state. And Thatcher herself claimed him as her greatest achievement. The first thing that the Blair did when he entered No. 10 was invite her round for a visit.

Blair claimed that politics had changed, as the fall of Communism meant that we were living in a post-ideological age. All that stuff by Francis Fukuyama about ‘the end of history’. Blair also packed his administration with Tories, arguing that in this new political era he wanted to reach across party lines and form a government of all the talents.

But neoliberalism itself has not triumphed, except as a zombie ideology kept walking by the political, social and economic elites long after it should have been interred. It keeps the 1 per cent massively rich at the expense of everyone else. And under Corbyn people started to wake up to it. Which is why the establishment were frantic to demonise him, first as a Communist or Trotskyite, and then, in a grotesque reversal of the truth, an anti-Semite. Starmer’s victory in the leadership elections is basically the Blairites returning to power and attempting to restore their previous domination.

It’s perfectly possible that Starmer is also simply being naive. After all, Germany’s equivalent party, the SPD, went into coalition with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, the German Conservatives. It was a disastrous mistake, as Merkel’s gang stole the credit for their reforms strengthening Germany’s welfare state, while making sure that the SPD took the blame for their mistakes and the negative part of the coalition programme. The result was that the SPD lost the next election heavily to Merkel. 

There’s also the object lesson of what happened to the Lib Dems in this country when Nick Clegg threw in his lot with Cameron. Despite the rhetoric of dragging the Tories further left or rather to the centre, Clegg immediately abandoned any real centrism and backed Cameron’s vile, murderous austerity programme to the hilt. Indeed, he went even further. Cameron was willing to concede to Clegg that university tuition fees shouldn’t be raised. But Clegg decided that they should. And so they were, and British students naturally turned against the man who betrayed them. And at the next election, the Lib Dems were devastated as their supporters chose instead either to vote Tory or Labour.

And there’s an important lesson for Starmer from the Labour party’s own 20th century history. Right at the end of the 1920s or the beginning of the 1930s, the Labour Party entered a coalition with the Conservatives under its leader, Ramsay McDonald. This was a response to the Wall Street Crash and the global recession that followed. The party’s members wanted their government to act in the interests of the workers, who were being laid off in droves, or had their wages and what unemployment relief there was cut. Instead the party followed orthodox economic policy and cut government spending, following the Tory programme of welfare cuts, mass unemployment and lower wages. This split the party, with the rump under McDonald losing popular support and dying. McDonald himself was hated and reviled as a traitor.

Something similar could easily occur if Starmer’s Labour went into coalition with the Tories. They’d back the programme of further austerity, an end to the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS, and would lose members as a result. Just as the party did under Blair. However, I can see Starmer and the Blairites seeing this as a success. They despise traditional Labour members and supporters, whom they really do view as Communist infiltrators. They did everything they could to purge the party of Corbyn supporters, using the accusation of Communism and then anti-Semitism as the pretext for doing so. And they seemed determined to split the party if they could not unseat him. There were the series of attempted coups, in one of which Starmer himself was a member. It also seemed that they intended to split the party, but hold on to its name, bureaucracy and finances in order to present themselves as the real Labour party, even though they’re nothing of the sort.

My guess is that this would happen if Starmer does accept an invitation from Boris to join him in government. And the question is whether Starmer realised this when he made his agreement with the blonde clown. Is he so desperate for power that he sees it as a risk he should take?

Or does he say it as a way of joining the party to which he really feels allegiance, and a useful way of purging Labour of all the awkward lefties?

 

The History Book on the TUC from Its Beginnings to 1968

December 26, 2019

The History of the T.U.C. 1868-1968: A Pictorial Survey of a Social Revolution – Illustrated with Contemporary Prints and Documents (London: General Council of the Trades Union Congress 1968).

This is another book on working class history. It’s a profusely illustrated history of the Trades Union Congress from its origins in 1868 to 1968, and was undoubtedly published to celebrate its centenary.

Among the book’s first pages is this photograph show the TUC’s medal, below, which reads: Workingmen of Every Country Unite to Defend Your Rights.

There’s also these two illustrations on facing pages intended to show the TUC as it was then and now.

After the foreword by the-then head of the TUC, George Woodcock, and the list of General Council in 1967-8, the book is divided into four sections on the following periods

1868-1900, on the first Trades Union Congress and the men who brought it to birth.

1900-1928, in which the TUC was consulted by Ministers and began to take part in public administration.

1928-1940, which are described as the TUC’s formative years and the fight for the right to be heard.

and 1928-1940, in which wartime consultation set the pattern for peacetime planning.

These are followed by lists of trade unions affiliated to the TUC circa 1968 and the members of the parliamentary committee from 1868 and the General Council from 1921.

The text includes articles and illustrations on the Royal Commission of Inquiry into trade unions, including a photograph of Queen Victoria’s letter; from the beehive of 1867 to the TUC of 1967; the early leaders of the TUC and the political causes at home and abroad, for which they rallied trade union support; some of the events that led to the TUC’s foundation and the Royal Commission on Trade Unions; the TUC and the Criminal Law Amendment Act; working men voting during the dinner hour; working hours and conditions which the TUC wanted to reform, particularly of women and children; Punch cartoon of the sweated workers exploited for the products displayed at the Great Exhibition; Alexander McDonald, the man behind the miners’ unions; campaigns for compensation for industrial injury and safeguards for sailors; farm labourers’ unions, the public and the church; the advent of state education and the birth of white collar unions; mass unemployment and demonstrations in the Great Depression of the 1880; the trade union leaders of the unemployed and their political allies; squalor and misery in London; forging the first link with American unions; the TUC on the brink of the 20th century; the ‘new unionism’ and the matchgirls’ strike; the dockers’ strike of 1889; the birth of the Labour Party in 1906; passage into law of the TUC’s own trade union charter; the trade unions and the beginnings of the foundation of the welfare state by the Liberals; Women trade unionists, the Osborne Judgement; the introduction into Britain of French and American syndicalism; the great dock strike of 1911, and the great transport strike of 1912; the Daily Herald; Will Dyson’s cartoons; the TUC on the eve of World War I; the War; the wartime revolution in trade unions; the TUC’s contribution to the war effort; rise of shop stewards; the impact of the Russian Revolution on the British Labour movement; peace time defeat; the appearance of Ernest Bevin; the replacement of the Parliamentary Committee by the General Council in the TUC in 1921; the first proposal for the nationalisation of the coal mines; 1924, when Labour was in office but the trade unions were left out in the cold; the gold standard and the General Strike; the Strike’s defeat and punitive Tory legislation; the TUC’s examination of union structure after the Strike; TUC ballots the miners to defeat company unionism; Transport House in 1928; the Mond-Turner talks and consultations between workers’ and employers’ organisations; Walter Citrine and the IFTU; the 1929 Labour government; opposition to McDonald-Snowden economies; McDonald’s 1931 election victory; propaganda posters for the National Government; the 1930s; the state of industry and TUC plans for its control; union growth in the young industries; young workers fighting for a fair chance; the TUC and the British Commonwealth; the Nazi attack on the German unions; the TUC and the international general strike against the outbreak of war; the waning of pacifism inside the TUC; the Labour Movement and the Spanish Civil War; Neville Chamberlain and ‘Peace in our Time’; summer, 1939, and the outbreak of World War II; Churchill’s enlistment of the TUC and Labour Party in government; the coalition government and the unions; TUC organises aid to Russia after the Nazi invasion; plans for post-War reconstruction; the TUC, godfather to the Welfare State; the Cold War; the bleak beginning of public industries in 1947; David Low’s cartoons of the TUC; the drive for productivity; the Tories and the Korean War; TUC aid to Hungary and condemnation of Suez; the official opening of Congress House; TUC intervention in industrial disputes; trade union structure; from pay pause to planning; trade unionists given a role in industry; government pressure for a prices and incomes policy; TUC overseas contacts; and recent changes to the TUC.

The book’s an important popular document of the rise of the TUC from a time when unions were much more powerful than they were. They were given a role in government and industrial movement. Unfortunately, the continuing industrial discontent of the post-War years have been played on by nearly every government since Thatcher’s victory in 1979. The result is stagnant and falling wages, increasingly poor and exploitative conditions and mass poverty and misery. All justified through Zombie laissez-faire economics. Corbyn offered to reverse this completely, and give working people back prosperity and dignity. But 14 million people were gulled and frightened by the Tories and the mass media into rejecting this.

Strong trade unions are working people’s best method for expressing their economic and political demands along with a strong Labour party, one that works for working people, rather than solely in the interest of the employers and the financial sector. Which is why the Tories want to destroy them and are keen that books like these should be forgotten.

Let’s fight against them, and make sure that books like this continue to inspire and inform working class people in the future.