Posts Tagged ‘Social Democracy’

‘The Lobby’: Labour Friends of Israel’s Lies and Smears at Labour Conference

September 26, 2018

This is the third part of the Al-Jazeera documentary, ‘The Lobby’, on the Israel lobby in the UK. In this section, the Arab news agency’s undercover reporter went with Shai Masot and Mark Regev of the Israeli embassy to the Labour conference in Liverpool. There they met and advised Joan Ryan, the Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, and her parliamentary assistant, Alex Richardson, and Michael Rubin, the Parliamentary Assistant for Labour Friends of Israel, on how to deal with supporters of the Palestinians. They also recorded Ryan smearing Jean Fitzpatrick as an anti-Semite, accusing her of saying something which she definitely did not. Ryan did so because Fitzpatrick had the temerity to ask her a question she could not answer about what the LFI was doing to advance a two-state solution to the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Israel’s Attack on the BDS Movement

The segment includes a clip of one of the Labour party’s Israel lobby saying that she could ‘take’ Jackie Walker. It then moves on to the challenge to Israel posed by the BDS movement, and Israel’s response to it. Netanyahu is shown saying to the camera that Israelis have to fight the BDS movement because it is morally wrong. Israel’s attack on the BDS movement is run by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which recruits mainly former Israeli secret agents. London is a major battleground in the conflict over the BDS movement. There’s a shot of Ilan Pappe, the Israeli historian and critic of Israel, stating that in many ways the BDS movement started in Britain. There’s another clip of someone from the Labour Friends of Israeli ominously declaring that they work closely with the Israeli embassy, ‘doing a lot behind the scenes’. The documentary’s director, Clayton Swisher, states that one of the main targets is the Labour party, as for the first time they have a leader, who is a champion of Palestinian rights. There is also a shot of Peter Oborne, the Telegraph journo, who himself made a Channel 4 documentary investigating and criticizing the Israel lobby, saying that Israel interference is an outrage, an affront to democracy and shouldn’t be allowed.

Mark Regev on What to Tell Supporters of the Palestinians

The video shows the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, telling a group of sympathetic Labour activists that people on the left today are likely to be pro-Palestinian and hostile to Israel, if not anti-Semitic. He tells them that to combat Progressives, they are to ask them why they are supporting reactionaries like Hamas and Hezbollah, and to say in the language of Social Democracy that they are misogynist, homophobic, racist anti-Semitic and reactionary. The chair of the Labour Friends of Israel, Jeremy Newmark, then talks to the crowd about how he used the argument to win over Clive Lewis, one of Corbyn’s close allies.

Jackie Walker: The Anti-Semitism Crisis Is Constructed to Unseat Corbyn

There is another clip of Jackie Walker stating that the anti-Semitism crisis is constructed and manipulated by parts of the Labour party, other parties and the media to discredit Corbyn and a number of his supporters. She makes it clear that she wants an argument between Zionism and anti-Zionism, instead of the fake conflict there is now. She also states that at a debate she had with Newmark, he turned his back on the audience and whispered to her that she was a ‘court Jew’, the Jewish equivalent of calling a Black person a ‘house n*gger’. A note at the end of the programme states that when they contacted Newmark, he denied he said any such thing and feels that it is not a fair description of Walker. When asked if she had told anyone, she replies that it’s hard to use the compliance system, because it’s so discredited.

Masot is also filmed boasting that the Israeli embassy had attended 50 events that year at universities, and that more than 100 events were organized by the Israel societies on campuses, eight receptions for young people at the embassy, and three receptions for more than 300 people from Parliament.

Jean Fitpatrick and Joan Ryan of Labour Friends of Israel

The video also interviews Jean Fitzpatrick about her encounter with Ryan and the Labour Friends of Israel. Fitzpatrick says that is was her first Labour conference, and that she wanted to use the opportunity to have a genuine dialogue with a group she felt had a lot of influence. She is shown asking Ryan and the others what they were doing about the Israeli settlements in Palestine. Ryan replies that they aren’t friends of Israel and enemies of Palestine, and that they believe in a two-state solution. Fitzpatrick asks how this will come about. Ryan simply comes out with more flannel about coexistence and self-determination for both peoples. Fitzpatrick states that she had no idea, who was on the stall, and what she wanted was straight answers not slogans. Fitzpatrick asked Ryan what they were doing about Israeli occupation. In reply Ryan restates that they’re in favour of a two-state solution, and Israeli security.

Swisher then follows, explaining that a two-state solution is impossible due to the way Israeli colonization has atomized the existing Palestinian villages and towns, separating them from each other. Fitzpatrick also states that she wanted reassurance that a two-state solution was still possible. Back to the video of Fitzpatrick and Ryan talking, where Ryan states that they have to be careful not to let their feelings morph into anti-Semitism. Fitzpatrick in reply says she’s not anti-Zionist.

Ben White, a journalist with the Middle East Monitor, appears on camera to state that it is clear that, whatever party is in power in Israel, the country has no desire to relinquish the territories seized after 1967. This throws up questions no-one wants to ask. Or don’t want to answer.

Ilan Pappe states that there are only two solutions to the problem. Either you support Israel, which is an ethnic apartheid state, or you support a change of regime in Israel, which means that the country would go through a process of genuine democratization like apartheid South Africa. There is no third option.

Back to the conversation between Fitzpatrick and Ryan, Ryan tries to end the conversation. Pappe observes that Fitzpatrick didn’t ask anything about Judaism or the existence of Israel. She just asked about the settlements, and how anyone who supported Israel justified them.

Ryan Calls Fitzpatrick Anti-Semitic

Fitzpatrick states she was interested to know how they would use whatever funds and influence they had to bring about a two-state solution. Fitzpatrick is shown saying to Ryan that they have a lot of money and prestige in the world. Ryan asks her where she got that from. Fitzpatrick replies that that is what she has heard. the Labour Friends of Israel is a stepping-stone to good jobs, and that the son of a friend of hers got a good job at Oxford university on the basis of working for the Labour Friends of Israel. Ryan then responds that this is anti-Semitic, which Fitzpatrick denies, stating that it’s a fact. Ryan then goes on about how it’s an ‘anti-Semitic trope’ and talks about ‘conspiracy theories’. Ryan then declares she’s ending the conversation, because she doesn’t want to talk further about getting jobs in university or the City through this, which is anti-Semitic.

Swisher then explains that Ryan falsely claimed that Fitzpatrick had spoken about getting jobs in the City, London’s financial centre. Pappe comments that Fitzpatrick wasn’t anti-Semitic, and Ryan and her friends knew it. She was simply an ordinary pro-Palestinian person concerned about Israel’s violation of their civil rights. Ryan continued talking about how Fitzpatrick had spoken about banking as she left the conference hall, even though Fitzpatrick had never mentioned it.

That evening, at a rally for the Labour Friends of Israel, Joan Ryan described her day, claiming that there were three anti-Semitic incidents that day at the stand to the people staffing it. Which she believed showed the reality of anti-Semitism in the party.

Ryan, Angela Eagle, Jennifer Gerber and Chuka Umunna

Swisher states that by the following day the news had got out about the exchange on the stall. The video shows internet messages from LBC and the Labour Friends of Israel. Various MPs came by to express their views on the subject, including Angela Eagle, who is told by Ryan’s assistant, Michael Rubin, the Parliamentary Officer for Labour Friends of Israel, that they had someone talk to them, who said the anti-Semitism accusations were made up to attack Jeremy Corbyn. Chuka Umunna also turns up to hug Jennifer Gerber, the director of the LFI, and asks for an update on the anti-Semitic incidents. They tell him that a ‘nutter’ turned up to tell him that the coup was run by Jews, Jewish MPs and Jewish millionaires. They also say that Angela Eagle’s husband was Jewish to show how unpleasant this comment was. Ryan also tells Umunna that she reported ‘that woman’ and that Fitzpatrick had videoed her not answering the question. This has clearly upset Ryan. Ryan then goes on to say that she didn’t film her telling Fitzpatrick that she’s anti-Semitic, and that she’s made a formal complaint.

Fitzpatrick states that she’s angry about how Ryan misquoted her, and anxious about how she totally misinterpreted her words. Fitzpatrick says she has no idea how Ryan got from what she really said to getting good jobs in banking. ‘Maybe she believes her own trope’.

The video goes back to Gerber stating that she met someone who said that the anti-Semitism isn’t real, they haven’t seen it, their Jewish friends haven’t seen it and it’s really being used to crush Corbyn.

Pappe then says that it’s pathetic and worrying that such evidence is used every day to attack Corbyn, and get him to deny that he is anti-Semitic.

Alex Richardson: I Don’t Know If It’s Anti-Semitic Or Not, But It Made Me Uncomfortable, So It Is

And then were back Gerber telling the LFI that it’s upsetting to her as a Jew to hear about how anti-Semitism is being used to undermine Corbyn. But Gerber then goes on about how this person worries her more than the blatant anti-Semites, who talk about how Jews have big noses and control the world, because she doesn’t know whether she’s an anti-Semite. The conversation then moves on to a debate over which of these incidents was worse, with Rubin claiming it was Fitzpatrick’s conversation with Ryan. And Rubin himself is shown saying that he doesn’t know where the line is about anti-Semitism anymore. Alex Richardson, Ryan’s parliamentary assistant, then gives his opinion, that it’s anything that makes you uncomfortable. And so he reported Fitzpatrick’s comments as anti-Semitic, even though nothing anti-Semitic was said – but he’s sure there were undertones – simply because it made him feel uncomfortable.

Fitzpatrick observes that she tried to talk to them because she thought they were willing to talk about Palestine. Now it appears they are not, and if you try to talk about it, they will bring a charge of anti-Semitism against you.

Pappe observes that the LFI is really scraping the bottom of the barrel to find 2 1/2 cases of anti-Semitism, and that even they aren’t sure if 2 of their 3 cases are actually anti-Semitic.

Fitzpatrick Investigated

Fitzpatrick was unaware that a complaint of anti-Semitism had been lodged, and that the story had made the news. This part of the video shows the headline in Jewish News. Shortly afterwards, Ryan’s parliamentary assistant emailed Rubin asking him to be a witness to the supposed anti-Semitic incident. But Richardson says that Fitzpatrick’s comment was ‘on the line’, but he felt it was anti-Semitic, even though she didn’t mention Jews, but Israel instead, and was all about Jews controlling money and power. Richardson then speculates about how ‘that woman’ might be banned because she said something anti-Semitic.

Shortly after she left the conference, Fitzpatrick was contacted by someone from the Labour party, who only told her it was about ‘a serious incident’. She was left racking her brains wondering if she had seen a fire or an assault of some kind. She was then told that it was her conduct, that was being investigated, ‘which was a real bombshell’.

At the end of the programme, it is states that they contacted everyone involved for their opinion. Ryan stated that she believes that it is duty of all party members to report language that is racist or anti-Semitic, and that she believes that her actions were entirely appropriate.

She added that comments like those about certain groups having lots of money and prestige and helped to advance people’s careers appeared to evoke classic anti-Semitic tropes.

The documentary also states that neither Shai Masot nor the Israeli embassy responded to their findings.

Conclusion

This shows just how nasty and desperate the Israel lobby is, and I admit, it has changed my opinion about the Israel lobby. I’d previously assumed that the accusations were a cynical ruse to smear Corbyn and his supporters. But it seems from this that the people who make them, Labour Friends of Israel, the Jewish Labour Movement and others are so fanatical and blinkered, that they really do think that any who questions their views and Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians is an anti-Semite.

Of course, they can’t clearly tell you what is anti-Semitic about particular comments. As Ryan showed with her own faulty recollection of what she was asked by Fitzpatrick, if it’s not explicitly anti-Semitic, they won’t remember it properly and make it fit their existing prejudices. Anti-Semites think Jews are behind the banking system, so when Fitzpatrick talked about the prestige surrounding the LFI that got her friend’s son a job, Ryan altered it in her recollection of the event to be about banks. Even though banks weren’t mentioned.

Nor did Fitzpatrick say anything about Jews. And it may very well be that the board interviewing the young man for the job at Oxford University were impressed that he had worked for Labour Friends of Israel. But just because Fitzpatrick believed, or her friend’s son believed, that he had got the job because of this doesn’t make it anti-Semitic. Fitzpatrick did not say that Jews controlled education, only that working for the LFI got him a job. People are impressed by different things, and it is not remotely impossible that someone at the university, who was personally impressed by the LFI, would offer a job to someone, who had worked for them.

As for Regev telling the Labour Friends of Israel to ask supporters of the Palestinians why they are supporting reactionaries, it’s true that Hamas and Hizbollah are unpleasant organisations. But there are deeply reactionary, racist and misogynist organisations in Israel. Not every Palestinian supports Hamas, and the nature of that political organization does not justify Israel’s dispossession and persecution of the Palestinians, which started long before it arose.

It’s clear from this segment that the Israel lobby can’t justify it’s treatment of the Palestinians. Ryan couldn’t in her conversation with Fitzpatrick, and this embarrassed and angered her. Hence the smear. And with no arguments, Rubin and Richardson act like precious snowflakes demanding ‘safe spaces’ from being made uncomfortable.

And the use of anti-Semitic tropes to accuse decent people of anti-Semitism is contrived and deliberately constructed so that those making the accusation do not need to take any account of the reality of what they are being told. It’s a particularly nasty way of sticking their fingers in their ears, and saying ‘la-la-la, I’m not listening to you, and you’re an anti-Semite anyway for telling me things I don’t want to hear, can’t answer, and don’t want you to know.’

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Kenneth Surin on Media Bias, and the Tories Feasting while Millions Starve

April 21, 2017

Kenneth Surin, one of the contributors to Counterpunch, has written a piece giving his analysis of the obstacles facing Jeremy Corbyn in his battle with the right-wing media, the Blairites, and the Tories. He points out that the tabloids, with the exception of the Mirror, are solidly right-wing, or owned by the very rich, who will naturally be biased towards the Tories. The Groaniad is centre, or centre-left, but its hacks are largely Blairites, who will attack Corbyn. He suggests that some of this vilification comes from the fact that Corbyn is not a ‘media-age’ politicians, but speaks as ordinary people do, rather than in soundbites. He makes the point that the Tories have copied Blair in trying to promote a Thatcherism without Thatcher’s scowls and sneers, and so Labour has no chance electorally if it decides to promote the capitalist status quo. He notes that Labour lost Scotland to the SNP, partly because the SNP placed itself as rather more Social Democratic than Labour. As for Labour ‘rust-belt’ heartlands in the Midlands and North of England, he thinks their dejected electorates now find UKIP and its White nationalism more palatable. He also states that the less educated working class, abandoned by Labour’s careerist politicians, also find UKIP more acceptable.

He suggests that if Labour wants to win, it should have the courage to abandon Thatcherism, and also attack the millionaires that invaded the party during Blair’s and Miliband’s periods as leader. These, like the Cameron’s Chipping Norton set, are obscenely rich when 8 million people in this country live in ‘food-insecure households’. And he goes into detail describing just what luxurious they’re eating and drinking too, far beyond anyone else’s ability to afford. Artisanal gin, anyone?

He also recommends that Labour should embrace Brexit, as this would allow the country to get rid of the massive hold a corrupt financial sector has on the country.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/20/the-uk-general-election-corbyns-vilification-and-labours-possible-fight/

I agree with many of his points, but profoundly disagree on others. Promoting Brexit won’t break the dead hand of the financial sector over this country. Quite the opposite. It’s being promoted by the financial sector because it will allow them to consolidate their stranglehold on the British economy by making the country an offshore tax haven for plutocratic crims.

I also think he overestimates the electoral strength of UKIP. Since Brexit, they’ve been on their way down and out. Many of the people, who’ve voted Leave have since been aghast that they won. They only wanted to give the establishment a nasty shock. They did not really want to leave Europe. Also, UKIP at heart was a single-issue party. Alan Sked founded them to oppose European federalism. Now that the Leave campaign succeeded – sort of – they’re struggling to get votes, and have been going through leaders as though it was going out of fashion. They have tried to pick up votes through some very unpleasant racist and Islamophobic policies and statements by their leading members. This has contributed to a disgusting rise in racist incidents. However, UKIP’s electoral base tend to be those aged 50 and over. The younger generations are much less racist and prejudiced against gays. Please note: I realise that this is a generalisation, and that you can find racist youngsters, and anti-racist senior citizens. Indeed, it was the older generation that did much to change attitudes to race and sexuality in this country. So the demographics are against UKIP. Racism and White nationalism also won’t save them from defeat, at least, I hope. The blatantly racist parties – the BNP, NF, British Movement and the rest of the scum – failed to attract anything like the number of votes or members to be anything other than fringe parties, often with trivial numbers of members. One of the contributors to Lobster, who did his doctorate on the British Far Right after the 1979 election, suggested that the NF only had about 2000 members, of whom only 200 were permanent. Most of the people, who joined them were only interested in cracking down on immigration, not in the intricacies of Fascist ideology. Also, many right-wingers, who would otherwise have supported them, were put off by their violence and thuggery. One of the Tories, who briefly flirted with them in the early ’70s quickly returned to the Tory party, appalled at their violence. Since then, the numbers of people in the extreme right have continued to decline. As for UKIP, even in their heyday, their strength was greatly – and probably deliberately – exaggerated. Mike and others have shown that at the time the Beeb and the rest of the media were falling over themselves to go on about how wonderful UKIP were, they were actually polling less than the Greens.

But I agree with Surin totally when it comes to throwing out once and for all Thatcherism and its vile legacy of poverty and humiliation. He’s right about the bias of the media, and the massive self-indulgence of the Chipping Norton set.

Surin writes

The context for analyzing this election must first acknowledge that the UK’s media is overwhelmingly rightwing.

Only one tabloid, The Daily Mirror, avoids hewing to rightwingery.

Of the others, The Sun is owned by the foreigner Rupert Murdoch, known in the UK for good reasons as the “Dirty Digger”.

The Nazi-supporting and tax-dodging Rothermere family have long owned The Daily Mail.

Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond (the former head of a soft porn empire) owns The Daily Express.

A Russian oligarch owns The Evening Standard.

Of the so-called “quality” newspapers, only The Guardian is remotely centrist or centre-left.

All the other “quality” papers are owned by the right-wingers or those on the centre-right.

Murdoch owns The Times, basically gifted to him by Thatcher, who bypassed the usual regulatory process regarding media monopolies to bestow this gift. The Times, which used to be known in bygone days as “The Old Thunderer”, is now just a slightly upmarket tabloid.

The tax-dodging Barclay brothers own The Daily Telegraph.

Another Russian oligarch owns The Independent.

The BBC, terrified by the not so subtle Tory threats to sell it off to Murdoch, and undermined editorially by these threats, is now basically a mouthpiece of the Tories.

This situation has, in the main, existed for a long time.

The last left-wing leader of the Labour party, Michael Foot, was ruthlessly pilloried by the right-wing media in the early 1980s for all sorts of reasons (including the somewhat less formal, but very presentable, jacket he wore at the Cenotaph ceremony on Remembrance Sunday).

Every Labour leader since then, with exception of Tony Blair, has been undermined by the UK’s media. Blair’s predecessor, Neil Kinnock, was derided endlessly by the media (“the Welsh windbag”, etc), even though he took Labour towards the right and effectively prepared the ground for Blair and Brown’s neoliberal “New Labour”.

***
Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, has been vilified ever since he was elected as party leader by a percentage higher than that achieved by Blair when he was elected leader (59.5% versus Blair’s 57% in 1994).

The disparagement and backbiting of Corbyn has, alas, come from the Blairite remnant in his party as much as it has come from the Conservatives and their megaphones in the media.

But while this is to be expected, a powerful source of anti-Corbyn vituperation has been The Guardian, supposedly the most liberal UK newspaper. Its journalists– most notably Polly Toynbee, Jonathan Freedland, Suzanne Moore, Anne Perkins, and Owen Jones– have done as much as Murdoch to undermine Corbyn.

To some extent this viciousness on the part of the Blairite faction, and its media acolytes, is understandable. Corbyn, who voted against the war in Iraq, believes Blair should be in the dock of the international court at The Hague for war crimes. The Conservatives, always a war-loving party, want no such thing for Blair, even though he defeated them in 3 general elections. Blair however is a closet Conservative.
***
Labour needs to go on the attack, on two fronts especially.

The first is Thatcher’s baleful legacy, entrenched by her successors, which has been minimal economic growth, widespread wage stagnation, widening inequality as income has been transferred upwards from lower-tiered earners, mounting household debt, and the extensive deindustrialization of formerly prosperous areas.

At the same time, the wealthy have prospered mightily. Contrast the above-mentioned aspect of Thatcher’s legacy with the world of Dodgy Dave Cameron’s “Chipping Norton” social set, as described by Michael Ashcroft (a former Cameron adviser who fell out with Dodgy Dave) in his hatchet-job biography of Cameron. The following is quoted in Ian Jack’s review of Call Me Dave: “Theirs is a world of helicopters, domestic staff, summers in St Tropez and fine food from Daylesford, the organic farm shop owned by Lady Carole Bamford”.

The Tories and their supporters are partying away as a class war is being waged, and Labour has been too timid in bringing this contrast to the attention of the electorate: the Chipping Norton set feasts on Lady Carole’s organic smoked venison and artisanal gin (available to the online shopper at https://daylesford.com/), while UN data (in 2014) indicates that more than 8 million British people live in food-insecure households.

“New” Labour did have a credibility problem when it came to doing this– Ed Miliband had at least 7 millionaires in his shadow cabinet, and another 13 in his group of advisers. So, a fair number of Labour supporters are likely to be connoisseurs of Lady Carole’s luxury food items in addition to the usual bunch of Tory toffs.

The austere Corbyn (he is a vegetarian and prefers his bicycle and public transport to limousines) is less enamoured of the high life, in which case the credibility problem might not be such a big issue.

Organic, artisanal food, holidays in St. Tropez, helicopters, smoked venison – all this consumed at the same time as Dave and his chums were claiming that ‘we’re all in it together’. We weren’t. We never were.

And remember – many members of the media, including people like Jeremy Clarkson, were part of the Chipping Norton set. And some of the BBC presenters are paid very well indeed. Like John Humphries, who tweeted about how he was afraid Labour was ‘going to punish the rich.’

As he is benefitting from a massive shift in the tax burden from the rich to the poor, it’s fair to say that he, and the wealthy class of which he is a part, are literally feasting at the poor’s expense. Furthermore, the affluent middle and upper classes actually use more of the state’s resources than the poor. So Labour would not be ‘punishing the rich’ if they increased their share of the tax burden. They’d only be requiring them to pay their whack.

New Labour Sets Up Delegate-Only Meetings to Exclude Corbyn Supporters from Nominations

July 30, 2016

Mike today has posted up another piece about the anti-democratic dirty tricks pursued by the Blairites to stop Labour party members voting for Jeremy Corbyn, according to an article in the Evening Standard. Mike reported yesterday how Conor McGinn, the Labour MP for St. Helen’s North, had misdirected Corbyn supporters to Century House for a meeting over a vote of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. McGinn and at least six of his cronies held the real meeting behind closed doors over in the Town Hall. When a group of women, who had come to support Corbyn and been misled, tackled him about it, McGinn reported them to the police and then wrote a completely misleading account of the incident for Politics Home, claiming to have been threatened and intimidated by them.

This process has been repeated in Blaenau Gwent, where Labour party members were prevented from attending a meeting to nominate, who they wanted as leader of the Labour party. The CLP instead chose Smiffy. It is not remotely coincidental that the local Labour MP is a director of Progress, the Blairite faction in the Labour party.

Now it also appears to have been done in Chuka Umunna’s local party in Streatham. The party’s grassroots members were locked out of the meeting, and the nomination was made by the party’s general committee, which chose Smudger. A party spokesman told the Standard that they had to do it like that, as the party’s membership was too large for everyone to be notified at such a short notice.

Mike points out that this is rubbish. They could have used email. If the problem was that the membership was too large to fit in the usual premises, then they could have done what Jeremy Corbyn does, and booked larger premises. Mike speculates that the people, who’ve arranged such anti-democratic tricks, don’t realise the amount of ill-will they’re creating for themselves, ill-will that will be expressed later on. Or they simply don’t care, as they’re trying to create a literal party within a party with Labour.

Mike concludes his article with the following recommendation

In the meantime, anyone who feels mistreated by this attempt to sidestep democracy is entitled to express their displeasure to the NEC – perhaps in the form of a multiple-signature letter or petition; perhaps with a motion of no confidence in the nomination decision and the process by which it was made.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/anti-corbyn-stitch-up-in-labour-leader-nomination-process-is-another-attack-on-democracy/

I’m not surprised that Chuka Umunna’s CLP in Streatham have tried this trick. Umunna is a Blairite through and through. A little while ago, when it seemed the party was going a little too far to the left for his liking, he warned that if it continued to do so, he and other ‘aspiring’ Blacks and Asians would leave the Labour party. This was part of a general warning by Blairites that a leftward turn by the Labour party would lose them the votes of all the aspirant, upwardly mobile ‘swing voters’ Blair, Broon and Mandelson had cultivated as part of their electoral strategy.

In Umunna’s case, there’s a nasty undercurrent of racial entitlement in this. The Labour party was founded to protect the interests of the working class and poor. At the heart of Socialism is a profound belief in equality, a belief that also motivates Socialists to support the independence movements that arose in the British colonies abroad, and support Blacks and Asians in their campaigns for racial equality at home. But Umunna’s statement suggests he believes that the majority of British people, regardless of colour, should continue to suffer if they are poor or working class, in order to reward Black and Asian swing voters, who are, like their White part counterparts, likely to come from the more affluent sectors of the population. It’s a nasty, racist attitude, though I doubt Umunna sees it as such. He probably sees it as supporting the rights of Blacks and Asians to join the affluent White groups, a demand for equality, even if it means the further impoverishment of everyone poorer than them.

It’s also particularly toxic politically in the present climate post-Brexit. Brexit has led to a massive increase in racism and racist incidents across Britain. Many racists believe that the vote to leave the EU has given them tacit permission to express publicly their private racial hatred. Dissatisfaction and frustration by the White working class was one of the fundamental causes of the Brexit vote. By pursuing the votes of affluent ‘swing voters’, Blair, Brown and Mandelson left very many members of the working class feeling left behind, as conditions for the working class generally worsened. Tory papers, such as the Scum and the Heil have consistently attacked affirmative action campaigns to improve opportunities for Blacks and Asians, and immigration, as discrimination against the White British. Umunna’s comment could easily be seen by disaffected Whites as confirming their belief that New Labour has no interested in helping the poor or working class, unless they are Black or Asian.

Owen Jones, in his book, Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, makes the point that despite the abandonment of the working class by New Labour, the working class as a whole isn’t racist, although the Tory press has done its level best to claim that it is. He describes a strike at a large industrial plant against the use of cheap immigrant labour. Yet while the Tory press claimed that this was purely a racist attack on the employment of migrant workers, the trade union that called the strike did so partly because it was concerned about the exploitation of the migrant labourers, who did not share the same working conditions as the British fellows, and were forbidden to join a union.

The demands by Umunna and his White counterparts that the Labour party should continue to focus on getting the votes of the middle class, and promoting the ambitions of the aspirant few against the impoverished many, should be strongly rejected. Mike himself has quoted surveys from Labour supporters that show that social aspiration rarely, if at all, figures as one of their concerns. Furthermore, the neoliberal policies Umunna and the rest of the Blairites have embraced, have actually destroyed social mobility.

If Umunna and the rest of them are serious about restoring social mobility, and enabling Blacks and Asians, as well as Whites, to rise higher, then they need to go back to the old Social Democratic consensus. The architect of this strand of Labour ideology, Tony Crosland, argued that it was in the interests of business to support the redistribution of wealth through the welfare state, as this allowed the workers to buy more of their products, and so stimulated both production and profitability. And he also argued that there was no need for more radical forms of industrial democracy, such as works councils and worker directors, if trade unions had an active role in negotiating with management, and workers had good chances of promotion.

If New Labour returns to this policy, then it will both bring prosperity back to working people, regardless of their colour, and get more Blacks and Asians into the middle classes. It isn’t social democrats like Corbyn blocking the social advancement of Blacks and Asians – or anyone else, for that matter. It’s neoliberals concerned to hold on to the status and privileges of the rich at the expense of the poor, no matter what colour they are.

The Conservatives and the Sale of Council Housing in Britain and Sweden

May 15, 2016

I’ve put up a couple of pieces, one today and one yesterday, which attempt to expand an article Mike put up on his blog, Vox Political, about the housing shortage and the scandalous rise in evictions. These have now doubled. This ultimately comes back to the Tory sale of council houses under Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s. This was deliberately designed to turn Britain into a home-owning democracy. The stock of council housing was deliberately reduced, and over the years former council houses have been bought up by housing associations and private landlords. As a result, rents in some areas have risen to the point where they are unaffordable.

Michael Sullivan in his book, The Development of the British Welfare State, notes that the Tories took their ideas for Housing Association, as a non-state solution to the housing crisis at the beginning of the ’60s, from Sweden and the Scandinavian countries.

In 1961 the Conservative government, struggling with evidence that the crisis was deepening not tapering out re-introduced substantial subsidies for new build, but, under Joseph, the Ministry of Housing was already turning to new ideas about housing for the poor. Officials seeking non-state solutions to the housing problem visited Scandinavia to investigate their not-for-profit housing association. Sir Keith, already an innovator, invested £25 million in a pilot project in 1961. In 1963, the fruit of that investment twelve two-bedroomed flats in Birmingham, took their first housing association tenants. Here, then, though from social democratic Scandinavia, was an idea that was to take root 20 years later in education and health: the publicly funded but independently managed provider of services. In the dog days of the Conservative government, a jubilant Sir Keith announced a £100 million grant to the newly formed Housing Corporation so that the idea of housing associations could spread. (P. 215).

It is therefore ironic that Sweden is also facing a housing crisis of its own, due to the importation of British Conservative housing policies in the 1990s under a Conservative administration. In 2013 riots erupted in an ethnically mixed sink estate, the product of the government’s abandonment of the social housing policies of Social Democratic administrations. This resulted in the creation of nearly all-White, affluent areas from which the poor were excluded through high rents. Owen Hatherley of the Guardian reported:

Under conservative governments in the 1990s and 2000s, housing began to be privatised, with predictable results, especially given the British experience. Flats in the most desirable areas – here, the city centre – rocketed in price. Yet Stockholm has kept building, and British architects and planners have kept visiting. The “success story” is Hammarby Sjöstad, a waterside scheme which shames the likes of Salford Quays. As much as Vällingby, it shows the virtues of long-term planning over speculation.

But although some of Hammarby was built by the municipality, it’s a wealthy and overwhelmingly white area, and rents are high. It offers little to those exiled to the peripheral million programmes. Hammarby implies that in Sweden, social democracy was only abandoned for the poor. Its innovations were retained for a bourgeoisie whose new areas are far more humane than those provided for them by British developers.

In Stockholm, the centre was cleared of the poor – the likely consequences in London of coalition’s housing policies. The stark segregation visible there means that for the first time, it should stand as an example to London’s planners of what not to do.

To read the Guardian’s article, go to: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/16/sweden-housing-programme-privatisation

The newspaper, The Swedish Wire, also carried a piece about the recommendations of the Swedish building workers’ union and its leader, Hans Tilly in 2010. It stated clearly that the Conservative government’s free market policies had failed. More new homes needed to be built, existing homes renovated and improved, especially for the needs of the elderly and handicapped.

Among the unions’ recommendations were the following points:

Do something tangible about the housing situation of young people. Today’s youth is the first generation that is having greater problems finding somewhere to live compared to their parents’ generation. Therefore we should invest in more rental housing….

Pursue a social housing policy. Everyone must have the right to their own home and this right is often a prerequisite when it comes to giving our children a good environment to grow up in.

• Establish a new Ministry for Community Development. For far too long, these issues have been divided between different policy areas. Hence, what is required is a firm grasp of construction, housing and living environment, infrastructure etc.

The present government’s housing policy is frightening. The coalition government is, however, obviously quite satisfied with what it has achieved when it comes to housing policy. Its motto is choice. The housing policy is to a large extent a non-issue for the present government. The government’s Spring Budget for 2010 gives a summary of what the government itself claims to have done as regards housing policy since 2006. 19 lines describe how the government has worked to achieve a better functioning housing market, how those living in the Million Homes Programme areas have been given the opportunity to buy their homes and how the government has introduced a system of owner occupancy in newly built blocks of flats.

See the article at: http://www.swedishwire.com/opinion/4987-swedens-housing-policy-has-failed

Across the world, Conservative housing policies have failed. They are only creating poverty, social exclusion and homelessness. The time is long past that they should be abandoned.

Strikes and Industrial Protest in an Anti-Union State: Pre-Revolutionary Russia

February 20, 2016

Like just about all its predecessors, Cameron’s government is doing its level best to emasculate and destroy the trade unions. Thatcher did it back in the 1980s with her union-busting legislation, and then the highly militarised use of the police during the Miners’ strike. Cameron’s trying to destroy them and their political representation in the Labour party through attacks on the union levy, further legal limits on the right to strike, and the legalisation of the use of blackleg labour from agencies to stop strikes being anything but cosmetic. The International Labour Organisation in the UN have denounced this last piece of legislation. And David Davies, one of the most right-wing of the Tory MPs, called Cameron’s plan to force stikers on pickets to giver their names to the police as ‘Francoist’.

Dave Cameron hopes this legislation will leave the unions powerless, and the workforce cowed, willing to accept the very worst wages and conditions. In the short term, he’s probably right, but in the long term, probably not. Not from the example of pre-Revolutionary Russia. The lesson there is quite the opposite: if you grind people down into the dirt for long enough, and deprive them of the right to strike and form unions, they will nevertheless strike and form unions, and the strikes and unrest will get more severe the worse conditions gets and the more force is deployed.

Lionel Kochan, in his Russia in Revolution (London: Paladin 1970) notes that in 19th century Russia it was illegal to form trade unions, go on strike or form any kind of collective organisation for the workers. (p. 42). There were no friendly societies or strike funds to support striking workers. Nevertheless, strikes became a feature of Russian industrial life. To be sure, not all workers went on strike. He states that between 1895 and 1904, only half the workers in factories tended to go on strike, most of which didn’t last very long. The average strike lasted about ten days. (p. 44).

Nevertheless, industrial unrest became so chronic that the government was forced to increase the police and the armed forces to put down strikes. The number of policemen was raised to 1 to 250 workers, and there was one factory inspector, whose duties included warning workers that they could not legally strike, and what would happen to them if they did, for every 3,000 workers. The army was called in to suppress strike action and workers’ demonstrations 19 times in 1893, 50 in 1899, 53 in 1900, 271 in 1901 and 522 in 1902. (p. 47). And the number of those on strike could be huge. During the revolutionary agitation of 1905, 111,000 people had gone on strike by 8th January. (P.88). At its height, there were 125,000 people on strike in the Russian capital. (p.94). In 1907, 740,000 people went on strike. (p. 160).

Most of these strikes were for purely economic reasons – an increase in wages and the betterment of working conditions, rather than for political reforms such as the establishment of a parliament and the right to vote. Nevertheless, the number of political strikes increased as the new century progressed. And this was despite some minimal concessions to modern representative politics, such as the establishment of a parliament – the Duma – albeit on a very restricted franchise by Nicholas II. In 1910 there were 222 strikes involving 46,000 workers. The following year, 1911, there were 466, with 105,110 workers. And the number of political strikes went up from eight in 1910 to twenty four in 1911. (p. 161). In 1912 the number of political strikes rocketed to 1,300. (P.162). And then in 1914, the year the War broke out, the number of strikes as a whole shot up to 3,466, of which 2,500 were politically motivated.(p. 164).

In many ways, this is to be expected. If you drive people down to the point where they have absolutely nothing to lose, they will revolt, and revolt violently. At one point wages were so low -just 40 kopeks – that they were insufficient for a worker to support a family. You can compare that to the in-work poverty today, where most welfare recipients are people working, often very long hours, but not earning enough to support themselves or their families.

Despite the glowing picture of the Developing World by the Tory writers of Britannia Unchained, which urged Brits to work harder for less money, ’cause that’s what workers outside the West are doing, parts of India is currently riven by Maoist rebels. I’ve mentioned the Naxites before, radical Marxists in the poorest states in Indian waging a guerrilla war on behalf of the peasants and Dalits. And much of the radical Muslim unrest and terrorism in India has concrete social and economic motives. In many areas, Muslims are treated as second-class citizens, given the worst jobs and with an unemployment rate higher than their Hindu compatriots. In fact, most of the Islamic unrest throughout the world probably has its origins less in religious doctrine and more in conditions of high unemployment, low pay, poor opportunities and political sclerosis.

By making democracy a sham, and repressing unions and other organisations trying to work for better wages and working conditions, Cameron is storing up problems for the future. The Fascist dictatorships of Salazar in Portugal and Franco in Spain collapsed, partly through workers’ strikes. As did the Communist dictatorships at the opposite end of Europe.

Now Cameron needs to maintain the illusion of democracy, and some minimal welfare state in order to deceive people that his government is actually democratic, and he is doing something to help them. After all, Bismarck said

Give the workman the right to work as long as he is healthy, assure him care when he is sick, assure him maintenance when he is old … If you do that … then I believe the gentlemen of the Social-Democratic programme will sound their bird-calls in vain. (Cited in Koch, p. 48).

Of course, Cameron is doing his best to make sure people don’t have the right to work, or are cared for and maintained in sickness and old age. He wants to pass welfare provision on to private industry, who will provide a much poorer service. But he needs to give the illusion that he is doing all the above. And it’ll probably work – for a time. Possibly even decades. But at the end there will be an explosion. And it may be all the more bloody, because of the way he has reduced democracy to a sham, so that people will just discard it in favour of authoritarianism, just as after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 millions of Germans were convinced that democracy had failed.

But what does Cameron care? He probably banks on being long dead by then, if he gives it any thought at all. Or perhaps he dreams of fleeing somewhere else, when the conflagration finally comes. To Switzerland, perhaps. Or the Cayman Islands. South America. Perhaps, America itself, always assuming Sanders doesn’t get in. And if it all kicks off before then, he, or Bojo, or some other Tory pratt, will indulge their stupid fantasy of being a great war leader, bravely reconquering the cities from Communist militants.

And we’re back to Orwell’s description of the future: a boot stamping on a human face. Forever.

Book of Interest: Guy Standing’s A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens

May 3, 2014

Precariat Cover

I found Standing’s A Precariat Charter (London: Bloomsbury 2014) going through my local branch of Waterstone’s. It’s the sequel to his earlier The Precariat. The precariat is the term he uses for the class of people trapped in low-paid, insecure work, with frequent withdrawals from the job market due to unemployment or the need to look after or raise a family. They are the people trapped on short-term or sero-hours contracts, humiliated by the DWP and its regime of benefit sanctions and endless means tests. They are often overqualified for the menial and low-status jobs they are forced to perform. Thus they include the graduates flipping burgers in the local McDonalds or signing on with the employment agency to do some kind of clerical work. They have been created by the policy of successive governments of creating flexible labour markets. They include large numbers of women and also immigrants and asylum seekers, who find themselves excluded from more secure jobs.

Standing calls them ‘the precariat’ because of their precarious employment position, which also excludes them from enjoying full citizenship. As well as Neoliberalism, he also criticises the Social Democratic parties for their exclusive concentration on securing rights for the labour – meaning primarily male breadwinners in secure employment – while ignoring other kinds of work.

He describes the way the Neoliberal capitalism of the late 20th and early 21st century invaded and overturned the automatic link between residence in a country and citizenship. On pp. 2-3 he writes

It fell to T.H. Marshall (1950) writing after the Second World War, to define citizenship in its modern form as ‘a status bestowed on those who are full members of a community’. To be a citizen meant having ‘an absolute right to a certain standard of civilisation which is conditional only on the discharge of the general duties of citizenship.’ While Marshall’s later conception of the ‘duties of citizenship’ included a duty to labour, with which this book takes issue, he recognised the tension between rights and capitalism, noting that ‘in the twentieth century, citizenship and the capitalist class system have been at war.’ Citizenship imposed modifications on the capitalist class system, since social rights ‘imply an invasion of contract by status, the subordination of market price for social justice, the replacement of the free bargain by the declaration of rights’.

That was roughly correct in the ‘re-embedded’ phase of Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation ((1944) 2001), the period of social-democrat supremacy between 1944 and 1970s. In the subsequent ‘disembedded’ phase, contract has invaded status, and social justice has been subordinated to the market price.

On pp. 8-9 he further describes the way residents in nations across the world have been stripped over their rights as citizens.

Until the 1980s, the conventional view was that over the long run, in a democratic society, residence and citizenship should coincide (Brubaker 1989. This would not be true today. Many residing in a country never obtain citizenship or the rights attached to it; others who have resided since birth, lose rights that supposedly go with citizenship.

Many denizens not only have limited rights but also lack the ‘the right to have rights’. Asylum seekers denied refugee status are an example; migrants who cannot practise the occupation for which they are qualified are another. Often, they do not have the means or the procedural avenues to contest their marginal status. Many lack the capacity to claim or enforce rights, or fear that the act of asserting a claim right would have a high probability of retributive consequences or disastrous costs. Others have no avenues at all for pursuing nominal rights.

… There a six ways by which people can become denizens. They can be blocked from attaining rights, by laws, regulations or non-accountable actions of state bureaucracies. The costs of maintaining rights can be raised. They can lose rights due to a change in status, as employee, resident or whatever. They can be deprived of rights by proper legal process,. They can lose rights de facto, without due process, even though they may not lose them in a de jure (legal) sense. And they can lose them by not conforming to moralistic norms, by having a lifestyle or set of values that puts them outside the range of protection.

He mentions the way people can be stripped of their rights through being convicted as criminals. This is an important point. While I have absolutely no objection whatsoever to crims in prison losing their right to vote as part of their punishment, in America the process has gone much further than that. In some states, if you have committed a crime, you automatically lose your right to vote in perpetuity, even after you have served your sentence and been released as a free man or woman. He summarises the situation thus

In sum, denizenship can arise not just from migration but also from an unbundling of rights that removes some or all of the rights nominally attached to formal citizenships. The neo-liberalism that crystallized in the globalization era has generated a ‘tiered membership’ model of society. Worst of all, the unbundling of rights has gone with a class-based restructuring of rights. This is the ground on which the precariat must make its stand. (p. 10.)

In discussing the varieties of the precariat, he describes deprived members of the working classes, who may because of their lack of opportunities or education become attracted to Fascistic ideologies that blame others for their misfortune, and demand that other groups have their benefits cut, even when they themselves need them. IN my opinion, this describes a certain type of Tory voter – the working class Conservatives on whom Johnny Speight based in the famous Fascist git, Alf Garnett. He goes on to explain why the precariat is a dangerous class:

The precariat is dangerous for another related reason, because it is still at war with itself. If populist demagoguery had its way, the first variety [the dispossessed working class] would turn vicious towards the second [migrants and asylum seekers], as has been happening in Greece, Hungary and Italy. It is also dangerous because as predicted in The Precariat, the combination of anxiety, alienation, anomie and anger can be expected to lead to more days of riot and protest. And it is dangerous because stress, economic insecurity and frustration can lead and are leading to social illnesses, including drug-taking, petty crime, domestic violence and suicide.

Finally, the precariat is dangerous because it is confronted by a strident divisive state. Many in it feel commodified, treated as objects to be coerced to labour, penalized for not labouring, exhorted by politicians to do more. Nobody should be surprised if they react anomically. But since the precariat is emotionally detached from the labour it is expected to do, it is less inclined to imagine that jobs are the road to happiness or that job creation is a sign of social progress. The precariat pins its hopes and aspirations elsewhere. Quite soon, it will echo a slogan of 1968: ‘Ca Suffit!’ p. 32).

As well as the chapter describing the emergence of the precariat, and the social and economic forces that have created and exploit it, he presents a charter for improving their conditions in Chapter 5. This includes the following articles

Article 1: Redefine work as productive and reproductive activity (basically, it isn’t just work outside, but also inside the home).

Article 2: Reform labour statistics.

Article 3: Make recruitment practices brief encounters.

Article 4: Regulate flexible labour.

Article 5: Promote associational freedom. (This means developing new forms of unions and work associations that are able to act for the precariat).

Articles 6-10: Reconstruct occupational communities.

Articles 11-15: Stop class-based migration policy. (This, presumably, means ending the double standards that allow the massively wealth to go wherever they want, while excluding the poor, who may desperately need sanctuary or the job opportunities available in the countries to which they wish to migrate).

Article 16: Ensure due process for all.

Article 17: Remove poverty traps and precarity traps.

Article 18: Make a bonfire of benefit assessment tests. (Yaay!)

Article 19: Stop demonizing the disabled. (Also Yaay!)

Article 20: Stop workfare now! (Definitely yaaay!)

Article 21: Regulate payday loans and student loans.

Article 22: Institute a right to financial knowledge and advice.

Article 23: Decommodify education.

Article 24: Make a bonfire of subsidies (in other words, stop state support for over-paid exploiters and slave masters like IDS).

Article 25: Move towards a universal basic income.

Article 26: Share capital via sovereign wealth funds.

Article 27: Revive the Commons.

Article 28: Revive deliberative democracy.

Article 29: Re-marginalize charities.

This effectively means stemming the various Neoliberal polices that have led to the emergence of this new class of the dispossessed, as well as democratic deficit in which parliament has been side-lined in favour of a presidential style of politics, and social and economic policies formulated by think tanks and corporations.

I haven’t read the book yet, and intend to write a fuller review when I do so. I have, however, glanced at some of it, particular the attack on workfare, and have been impressed by Standing’s analysis and arguments.

Blair, Mussolini, Neo-Liberalism and ‘The End of the Ideology’

March 4, 2014

Mussolini

Fascist Dictator Mussolini adopting typically grandiose posture

After the scrapping of Clause 4, the section of the Labour party’s constitution committing it to nationalisation, Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ government was hailed by many as the expression of the new pragmatism in politics. With ministers drawn from outside as well within the Labour party itself, New Labour was celebrated for its empirical approach to politics. Instead of following the dictates of ideology, the party was instead formulating policies and appointing personnel according to what worked. Just as Francis Fukuyama described the new political era ushered in by the Fall of Communism as the ‘end of history’, so there was a tendency to describe Blair’s government almost as the ‘end of ideology’. This type of rhetoric resembled some of the attitudes adopted by Mussolini’s Fascist dictatorship when it seized power in the 1920s.

19th and early 20th century Reformist Social Democrat politicians had believed that society and history proceeded by fixed laws, laws that were leading to the inevitable triumph of socialism. In their defence and advancements of socialism, the British Fabians, for example, who strenuously rejected Marx’s doctrine of the Class War, argued that Socialism was merely the continuation and expansion of existing government policies interfering with and regulating the economy. Sidney Webb, who with his wife, Beatrice, was one of the founders and leading Fabian intellectuals, wrote

The practical man, oblivious or contemptuous of any theory of the social organism or general principles of social organisation, has been forced, by the necessities of the time, into an ever-deepening collectivist channel. Socialism, of course, he still rejects and despises. The individualist town councillor will walk along the municipal pavement, lit by municipal gas, and cleansed by municipal brooms with municipal water, and seeing, by the municipal clock in the municipal market, that he is too early to meet his children coming from the municipal school, hard by the county lunatic asylum and municipal hospital, will use the national telegraph system to tell them not to walk through the municipal park, but come by the municipal tramway, to meet him in the municipal reading-room, by the municipal art gallery, museum, and library, where he intends to consult some of the national publications in order to prepare his next speech in the municipal town hall, in favour of the nationalisation of canals and the increase of Government control over the railway system. ‘Socialism, Sir,’ he will say, ‘Don’t waste the time of a practical man by your fantastic absurdities. Self-help, Sir, individual self-help, that’s what’s made our city what it is’.

Sydney Webb, Socialism in England, quoted in E.C. Midwinter, Victorian Social Reform (Longman: Harlow 1968) p. 94.

This idea of slow progress leading to the gradual victory of Socialism seemed to be shattered by the reality of the First World War. This seemed to show that all such ideologies of historical laws of gradual progress were wrong. To the activists and intellectuals that formed part of Mussolini’s Fascists, the War instead showed that history was made through will. As a result, Fascism vigorously promoted itself as the first movement that was no constrained by ideology or values. Some non-Fascist Italian intellectuals were initially favourable to them because of this. It seemed to look past the political stalemates that had occurred in the Italian parliament through the conflicts between the different political groups.

Adrian Lyttleton in his book The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy 1919-1929(London: George Weidenfeld and Nicholson Ltd 1987, describes the situation thus

The interventionist intellectuals conceived of the war as an assertion of will and energy in defiance of the supposed ‘laws’ of historical development. ‘The world war has destroyed the ideology of progress as a slow ordered succession of events and institutions … it has destroyed the bourgeois, reformist, evolutionist conception.’ In the postwar period, activism ceased to be merely an intellectual fashion and became a widespread state of mind. The confusion and dissatisfaction with all existing ideologies had become acute. While other parties appeared to deny the existence of a crisis of values, Fascism not only recognized by glorified it. Mussolini’s attitude of tough-minded pragmatism, his claim to have seen through and ‘transcended’ the old ideologies, appeal to may intellectuals. They celebrated Fascism as the end of ideology, as the first realistic political movement free from both moral and intellectual preconceptions, one in which practice would precede and form values instead of the other way round. Fascism taught the value of Negative Thinking. There were echoes here of Nietzsche’s ‘transvaluation of values’; the Fascist felt himself to be the superman freed from conventional moral restraints, and this helped him to act with confidence and ruthlessness. (p. 367).

Regardless of the rhetoric surrounding Blair’s government as indicating the end of ideology, Blair was not, unlike the Fascists, a moral nihilist. He did not reject all systems of morality nor celebrate force and violence. Indeed, he was always keen to promote some kind of moral reason for his actions and policies, some of which, like the invasion of Iraq, were indeed highly questionable. Nor can the Blair regime be seen as inaugurating the ‘end of ideology’. Blair’s New Labour did not reject ideology – it just rejected traditional socialism in favour of Neo-Liberalism. They still retained some belief in social justice and state interference in the economy for the good of society, but this was to be kept at a minimum. Following Thatcher, who gave her official endorsement of Blair when she met him at 10 Downing Street after his election, private enterprise was regarded as the foremost solution to the problems of the economy and society. This attitude has continued to inform politics after Blair’s departure. It underlies Brown’s management of the economy, and now, in a far purer and more extreme form, that of the Coalition.

I don’t, however, believe that the Neo-Liberal consensus has meant the end of ideology. The vast majority of the population, for example, do not want the privatisation of the NHS. Nor did they wish for the privatisation of the Post Office when this was mooted by New labour. Furthermore, as Mike has pointed out, there is considerable support for the renationalization of the railways and the utilities. What has changed is not so much the opinions of the electorate, but that of the governing political elites. And this is leading to a crisis of faith in politics. Increasing numbers are not voting, because they see little difference between the parties. These particularly include the young, the poor, the unemployed and disabled, who believe that there is no point in voting, as none of the parties are interesting in doing anything for them. This has not led to a revolt, whether of the Left, like the Communists, or the Right, like the Fascists. But it is corroding democracy in this country. If we are not careful, it will lead to the emergence of a managerial, technocratic elite, who govern without a mandate and whose policies do not reflect the will of the electorate, even more so than the Coalition at present.

Book Review: The Development of the British Welfare State

July 16, 2013

By Michael Sullivan (Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf 1996)

Sullivan State Book

This is another history of the welfare state, though from the standpoint of narrative history, rather than the documentary approach of From Beveridge to Blair. Sullivan’s book was published in the mid-1990s, but I’ve included it here as much of the material it contains is still relevant today.

The book is divided into three parts. The first deals with the development of the British welfare state from the first Liberal legislation introducing old age pensions and health cover to the crisis in the welfare state in the decades from 1970 to the 1990s.

Part two deals with the individual welfare services – education, health policy and the NHS, the personal social services, post-war housing policy, and social security since the war.

The third part summarises the development and apparent decline of the welfare state, raising questions about it such as whether the welfare consensus was ever real.

Before the Welfare State

Chapter 1: ‘Before the Welfare State, covers the introduction of the first welfare legislation passed by Campbell-Bannerman’s Liberal government of 1906. It has sections on the Embryonic Welfare State, discussing the first old age pensions, Lloyd George’s People’s Budget of 1910, and Liberal Social Insurance; Social Democracy: the Political Source of Reformism?; Marxism and Labourism as Twin Threats to Welfare Statism; Fabianism, Ethical Socialism and Social Democracy, with further sections on Fabianism: Its Appeal for Labour, Fabianism’s Contribution to Labour Thinking and The Contribution of Fabianism Considered; Ethical Socialism: the Heart of Labour Reformism; Tawney’s Ethical Socialism: Labour and Social Policy and Labour Social Democracy: Social Reformism Comes of Age.

The Road to 1945: War, Welfare and the People’s Will

Chapter 2 discusses the war years and the run up to Labour’s 1945 election victory. It has sections on the career of Ernest Beveridge and his proposal for the creation of the welfare state, consensus with the major stakeholders, the government’s reaction to the Beveridge report, the debate over the report and disagreements in cabinet about it, the parliamentary debate on Beveridge, which resulted in 121 MPs voting against the government for its reluctance to implement the report’s proposals, which resulted in Churchill being forced to accept it. The chapter also examines the role of collectivism; the emergence of Labour; Social Policy in War Time, with further sections on health policy, this significance of war-time policy for the social policy of the post-war period; Education Policy; and Conclusion.

The Emergence and Growth of the Welfare State

This deals with the development of the welfare state from its foundation in 1945 to 1969. It has the following sections: the Emergence of the Welfare State; the Economic Context; the Post-War Welfare State; Developing Social Security; Introducing a National Health Service; Labour’s Housing Policy; The Mosaic of Reform and Conservatism; Conservative criticisms of the welfare state; Consolidationists versus radicals; Conservativism and Social Policy 1951-64, which has a section on Convervatives and anti-welfarism; Conservative Responses, including Conservative justifications of the welfare state; Reactions to the Right: the Challenge of Social Democracy, including sections on Titmuss’ defence of the Welfare State, Crosland and the Welfare state and his redefinition of socialism, citizenship and social policy, and the rediscovery of poverty; Emerging Issues and Labour and Social Policy, 1964-9.

The Welfare State in Crisis

This chapter deals with the period from 1970 to 1995. The first section, Farewell to Welfare Statism, has sections, on poverty and labour, challenges to Keynes and Beveridge and Enoch Powell and the ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech; the 1970s; Labour on the Welfare Crisis; Conservatives and Social Policy; Welfarism and the new Conservatism; the New Conservative Experiment from 1979-1990, with subordinate sections on dealing with unemployment, restrictions on public expenditure, the National Health Service, radical approaches to social policy from 1983 to 1990; Public Resistance to the Dismantlement of the Welfare State; The Major Governments and Social Policy, with sections on whether the 1990 to 1995 administration was a development of Thatcher’s project or its demise, health policy in the Major governments, education policy in the 1990, rethinking the social agenda, and the Major administrations and social policy. The last section in this chapter is an appraisal of the New Conservatism’s Social Policy, including a discussion of its long-term strategy and incremental change.

Post-War Education Policy: Continuity and Change

The has sections on the Labour Government and the Butler Act; The issue of Comprehensives, including sections on the debate within the Labour Party, the movement away from comprehensive education by teacher’s organisations, and the first comprehensive schools; Education and Society, 1951 to 1964, including sections on the squeeze on education spending, and the replacement of the squeeze by increased spending, the continuing debate over comprehensive education in the Labour party, the question of whether there was a resurgence in the Labour Left, or if it was a redefinition of social democracy, evidence from sociological and psychological research, changes in schooling and changing attitude among parents, education and the economy, and the attitude of the Conservative Party; the various reports into education of the 1950s and 1960s; and the Robbins Revolution in the expansion of the higher education.

Education, Retrenchment, Privatisation and Consumers

This chapter deals with the period from 1965 onwards. It has sections on Education Policy and the Labour Governments, 1964-70, including sections on the Labour government and comprehensive education, the unusual method in which this policy was introduced by administrative circular, the way the cabinet was not involved in the introduction of the policy, relations between central and local government, the Labour party and the professionals involved, such as teachers, and the use of the circular to avoid opposition in parliament; Conservatives and Education, 1970-4, with sections on Margaret Thatcher and the comprehensive schools, her ending of free school milk, her initial policies of expanding education; Education Policy during the 1974 to 1979 Labour Governments, with sections on comprehensive schools and the ‘great debate’ on education; and the Thatcher governments and education.

Health Policy and the National Health Service

This chapter covers the post-war period up to the book’s publication. This has sections on the creation of the National Health Service; the period of initial conflict, followed by consolidation, with sections on demand and supply, consolidation, the question of hardening of inequalities and the power of the medical profession; From ad hoc innovation to rational planning, with sections on the 1962 Hospital Place, and financing the National Health Service; the return to the ad hoc approach to reforms, with sections on the 1974 reorganisation of the National Health Service; the question whether the new philosophies actually led to changes in service, with sections on further reorganisation, the Griffiths Report, general management and the marketization of the National Health Service, marketization and the National Health Service: competitive tendering, marketization and health: private practice, private insurance and private facilities, the national health service reforms, the National Health Service and Internal Markets, papering over the cracks in the White Paper, the 1990 National Health Service and Community Care Acts, and where the NHS may go from here. The last section, Making Sense of It All, has further sections on supply and demand and equality. The post-script to this chapter notes the proposed changes by the Labour government at the date the book was written.

Personal Social Services

This chapter begins with a short summary of the post-War social services, including a section on the reorganisation of state social work. There is then further sections on personal social services in the post-War period; the changes in the 1960s, with further sections on the Seebohm report and community development; attempts to fill the gap between aims and resources in the 1970s; the arrival of community social work in the 1980s, with a section on the disappearance of the Barclay Report as it challenged the Neoliberal ideology of the Conservative party; the return of Care in the Community; attempts to explain personal social services policy, including the sections on the Left’s critique, the attack from the Right, and personal social services and the New Conservatism.

Post-War Housing Policy

This begins with Labour’s attempts to end the housing shortage, followed by sections on Macmillan and Housing; the return of the market; the construction of high rise flats; Conservatives and the market; the New Towns; the ‘affluent society’ and housing policy in the 1960s, with sections on demographic change, the reaction to the Rachman scandal, Labour and housing policy from 1964-70, a new ideology and the decision to build more houses, the ending of the construction of high rise flats, and the existence of the homeless poor in the new welfare state; the record of Ted Heath’s Conservative government on housing 1970-4; Labour and Housing, 1974 to 1979; Changing policies to housing during Margaret Thatcher’s three administrations, with sections on the right to buy, the 1988 Housing Act. The last section is a critical summary of Post-War housing policy.

Social Security Since the War

This has sections on the Conservatives and Social Security, 1951-64, with a sections on pensions; Labour, and Poverty and Social Security, with sections on demographic and economic crisis, the rediscovery of poverty, and the Left’s reappraisal; the Heath Government and Social Security, with sections on Keith Joseph and the Family Income Supplement, the expansion of social security, the retrenchment in welfare spending due to the 1973 oil crisis, and the integration of tax and social security; Labour governments and social security policy; the Thatcher Governments and Social Security, with section on the 1976-8 review, her first administration, the 1980 ‘Annus Horribilis’, attacks on ‘scroungers’, the Fowler Review in Mrs. Thatcher’s Second Administration, Income Support, Family Credit, Housing Benefit, Social Fund, SERPS, the promise of radical change, and the 1988 Social Security Act; Emerging Issues, with sections on the preference for means-testing, the retention of work incentives, fraud and abuse, racism against the Black community, the contraction of the role of the state in favour of charities, self-reliance and independence, and the construction of residual welfare state; the 1990s, with sections on workfare and the Tory ‘Bastards’ in Major’s administration. The final section summarises briefly the changes in social security from 1945.

From the Cradle to the Grave: The Beginnings, Development and Demise of the Welfare State?

This final chapter reviews the progress and changes in the welfare state in order to question whether it is at its end. It has the following sections, on whether there was a real welfare consensus, Keyne’s, Beveridge and the origins of the 1945 welfare settlement; Neoliberal and Radical Right hostility to the post-War consensus as ‘backdoor tyranny’, and scepticism on whether the consensus ever existed at all; the question of whether the consensus has been smashed, with sections on the problems of Thatcher’s first administration, and her administrations from 1983 to 1990, the National Health Service, Education, Social Security and Personal Social Services, and Housing; Majorism and Welfare, with sections on social policy spending and his introduction of Thatcherite policies on the family and personal responsibility; continuity and change in the welfare state from 1945 to 1995; Continuity and change, with further sections on the debate over equality, professionals and welfare; further directions in the welfare state, with sections on Labour and the welfare state in the 1990s, Blair’s shift from social class to community, whether the effective re-making of the Labour Party meant the death of social democracy, economic prudence, the acceptance of internal markets in the NHS; New Labours emphasis on social responsibility rather than social rights, opt-out schools, from universalism and selectivism, ineffecitiveness and inefficiency and consumerism in the old welfare state, and Labour and consumer choice.

Each chapter has a chronology and suggestions for further reading.

The book provides a detailed examination of the development of the welfare state over its first fifty years, and the nearly forty years prior to its establishment by Clement Atlee. It covers the political debates and manoeuvring over policy, and includes extracts from the speeches and documents made and compiled by its architects, reformers and adversaries. These can be quite long – the speech by Lloyd George advocating his ‘people’s budget’ is well over a page. It thus provides a good overview of the welfare state’s history, and the changes from state provision to the post-Thatcherite political climate of hostility, privatisation and marketization, and the reliance on charities.