Posts Tagged ‘Starvation’

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part One

May 16, 2020

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Introduction

This is a great book. It’s the kind of book on socialism I was very much looking for in the 1980s when the papers were all praising Margaret Thatcher and alleged superiority of capitalism to the heavens. What I wanted then was a classic defence of socialism, which clearly showed the destructive nature and defects of capitalism, and how these would be removed for the better under a proper socialist government with a clear idea of what needed to be done and how it could be achieved.

This is a rather long review, so I’ve split up into four parts.

The book was written between 1924 and 1928, when it was first published. George Bernard Shaw is one of the great figures in British socialism. An Irishman, he was one of the founders of the Fabian Society along with Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and editor of its anthology of socialist writings, Fabian Essays. He’s best known for his play Pygamalion, about a linguist, Henry Higgins, who takes Eliza, a rough working class girl, and tries to mould her so she can pass as a lady of the genteel classes. It was filmed as the musical My Fair Lady, starring Rex Harrison.

Shaw wrote it between 1924 and 1928, when it was published, at the request of his sister-in-law, Lady Cholmondley. She had asked him to write a letter explaining socialism for women. Shaw looked into it, and discovered that amongst the masses of literature about socialism, there weren’t any books that realised that there were such creatures. And, he adds in his ‘Instead of a Bibliography’, very few that recognised the existence of men either. The book’s addressed to a female audience. The reader is a ‘she’ and the examples given are taken from women’s lives, jobs and experience. Shaw recognises that most women are occupied as wives and mothers, or shop girls and workers in the great weaving mills, the common female roles at the time. But he also recognises and fully supports the fact that more professions were being opened up to women in science, law, medicine and so on. If done badly, this approach by a male writer can seem patronising, but Shaw, as a great writer, manages to avoid it. And even though it’s aimed at women, I greatly enjoyed it, and would recommend it to other blokes.

Capital, Equality of Incomes and Imperialism

Shaw tries to present complex ideas about capitalism by simplifying them down to the level of ordinary people’s housekeeping or domestic economy. He defines capital as left over money. It’s the money you have left after spending your income on rent, food and so on. This is the money that the idle rich, the landlords, invest in industry. And money’s only real value is for the food and clothing that it will purchase. You cannot eat money, and the food it will buy must be eaten or else it will be spoilt. Which means that money must be invested and used, rather than stored up.

At the heart of Shaw’s view of socialism is the equalization of incomes. He believed that everyone should earn exactly the same amount. Capitalism had created vast inequalities of wealth. On the one hand there was a small minority of the idle rich, who had to invent pastimes and diversions in order to use up their wealth. On the other was the vast mass of the poor, living at or near starvation level. He begins by asking the reader how they would divide up the nation’s wealth, challenging the reader to think for herself rather than let him do her thinking for her. He then proceeds to argue that it is impossible to decide that one person should be paid more or less than another because of their personal morality or ability. He sharply criticises the quasi-feudal economy of his day, when 90 per cent of the country worked to support the gentry, who only comprised ten per cent of the country’s population. They do nothing for it, don’t benefit from it, as they can’t personally eat or drink more than anyone else. And instead of investing it, they simply take it out of the country to invest it or spend it abroad. He also attacks British imperialism for this same thing. It hasn’t benefited the peoples we have conquered nor British tradespeople, businessmen and workers. It has led to the exploitation of Blacks abroad, who can paid far less than their British counterparts. Thus Britain is flooded with cheap imports, and British companies are going bust and their workers laid off.

The Progress of Capitalism and Decline of the Businessman Owner

Shaw then describes how the middle class have their origins as the younger sons of the aristocracy, with a few acute remarks on the absurd gradations of class which meant that a wholesaler was socially superior to a retailer. His father was a businessman, who had been a member of the gentry. As such he looked down on the elite Dublin shopkeepers, even though they were richer and entertained the local Irish aristocracy, which he very definitely couldn’t. But business was changing. The age of the small businessman in personal possession of his business, was giving way to joint-stock companies owned by their shareholders and managed by professional, salaried staff. Under pressure from the unions, they were combining to  form monopolistic trusts. This made them ready for nationalisation.

Nationalisation and the Coal Industry

He presents the coal industry as particularly needing nationalisation. At the time he wrote, there were a number of different mining companies. Some worked poor mines and were close to bankruptcy, others very rich. However, miners wages were set at the level the poor mines could afford, which was near starvation. Coal prices were set for the rich mines, and so prices were high. The miners were thus being starved and the consumer overcharged. The mines should thus be nationalised so that the workers were paid a fair wage, and the consumer a fair price. Shaw advocated nationalisation so that costs and prices could be brought down and goods sold at cost price.

Banks and the Stock Market

He also discusses and explains finance capitalism, stocks and shares, debentures, futures and the stock market. He warns the reader against get-rich-quick scams, like the bucket shops which will charge his prices for very risky shares. If people want to invest, they should do so with the government or municipality. Their shares won’t provide a great yield, but they will be safe. He recommends that banks should be nationalised because of the problems the small businessman had acquiring capital. The big businesses rely on financiers, who certainly won’t lend the small businessman wanting a modest loan anything. Neither will the banks. He pointed to Birmingham as an example for the future, as it had established a municipal bank to serve the customers the big banks wouldn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starmer Throws Away Corbyn’s Popular Socialist Labour Policies

May 13, 2020

I really shouldn’t be surprised at this whatsoever. It was inevitable, and everyone saw it coming the moment Starmer entered the ring in the Labour leadership contest. But I hoped against hope that he would still have some sense of honour and remain faithful to his election pledges. But he hasn’t. He’s finally taken his mask off and revealed his true, Blairite neoliberal face. And in the words of Benjamin J. Grimm, your blue-eyed, ever-lovin’ Thing, ‘What a revoltin’ development’ it is.

On Monday Mike put up a piece reporting that Starmer had given an interview to the Financial Times in which he blamed his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, for last year’s election defeat. He claims that Corbyn’s leadership was the chief topic of debate. That’s probably true, but only up to a point. The long, venomous campaign against Corbyn certainly did whip up a vicious hatred against the former Labour leader amongst a large part of the electorate. Some of the people I talked to in my local Labour party, who’d been out campaigning, said that they were shocked by the vicious, bitter hatred the public had for him. One woman said that it was as if they expected him to come up the garden path and shoot their dog.

But Starmer was also one of the reasons for Labour’s defeat. It was due to Starmer’s influence that Labour muddled its policy on Brexit by promising a second referendum. Johnson’s message of getting Brexit done was much simpler, and more popular. It’s almost certainly why Labour lost its historic strongholds in the north and midlands. These were areas which voted heavily for Brexit. But obviously, as the new leader of the Labour party, Starmer doesn’t want to mention that.

Then he goes on to blame the defeat on Labour’s policies. He claims Labour had overloaded its manifesto with promises to nationalise several utilities, issue £300 billion of shares to workers and promising another £83 billion in tax and spending. However, these policies, contrary to what the habitual liars and hack propagandists of the Tories and Lib Dems claim, had been properly costed.

Now I don’t doubt that the manifesto was overloaded by too many promises. When analysing what went wrong in the local constituency meeting, some felt that it was because the manifesto was too long, contained too many such promises and felt that they were being made up on a daily basis as the election progressed. But the central promise of renationalising the electricity grid, water and the railways were genuinely popular, and had been in the previous election in 2017. And Starmer promised to honour the policy commitments made in last year’s manifesto.

And now he’s shown in this interview that he has no intention of doing so.

He’s also demonstrated this by appointing as his shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson, another Blairite, who attacked Labour’s 2017 manifesto for offering too much to voters. Mike also reports that a leaked letter from Phillipson to other members of the shadow cabinet shows her telling them that from now on any policies that involve spending must have the approval of both Starmer and the shadow Treasury team before they’re even put in the planning stage.

Mike comments

Clearly, Starmer wants an “out-Tory the Tories” spending policy of the kind that led to then-Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves promising to be “tougher than the Tories” on benefits, in just one particularly out-of-touch policy from the Miliband era.

Absolutely. He wants to show Tory and Lib Dem voters that Labour stands for responsible fiscal policy, just like it did under Blair, who was also responsible for massive privatisation and a further catastrophic dismantlement of the welfare state.

Blair also made a conscious decision to abandon traditional Labour policies and its working class base in order to appeal to Tory voters in swing marginals. And the first thing he did was to recruit former Tory cabinet ministers, such as Chris Patten, to his own to form a Government Of All the Talents (GOATS). Starmer’s trying to make the same appeal. And it’s shown glaringly in the choice of newspaper to which he gave the interview. The Financial Times is the paper of the financial sector. Way back in the 1990s it was politically Liberal, although that didn’t stop one of its writers supporting workfare. According to Private Eye, the newspaper was losing readers, so its board and director, Marjorie Scardino, decreed that it should return to being a Tory paper. It has, though that hasn’t helped it – it’s still losing readers, and has lost even more than when it was Liberal. Starmer’s trying to repeat the Labour Party’s ‘prawn cocktail’ offensive, begun under Neil Kinnock, in which it successfully tried to win over the banking sector.

The rest of Mike’s article is a dissection of Starmer’s promises to stop landlords evicting their tenants because of the Coronavirus crisis. These look good, but will actually make housing scarcer and actually increase the problems renters have finding rent. Critics of Starmer’s policy see him as protecting landlords, rather than tenants.

Please see Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/11/keir-betrayal-starmer-rejects-policies-that-made-him-labour-leader/

Starmer’s policy does seem to be succeeding in winning Tory and Lib Dem voters.

According to a survey from Tory pollster YouGov, Starmer has an approval rating of +23, higher than Johnson. People were also positive about his leadership of the Labour party. 40 per cent think he’s done ‘very well’ or ‘well’ compared to the 17 per cent, who think he’s done fairly or very badly.

When it comes to Tories, 34 per cent think he’s doing well compared to 25 per cent, while regarding the Lib Dems, 63 per cent think he’s doing well compared to 53 per cent of Labour people.

Mike states that this is humiliating for Starmer, as it comes from people, who have a vested interested in a duff Labour leader.

Starmer gets approval rating boost – courtesy of Tory and Lib Dem voters

And Starmer has been duff. He’s scored a couple of very good points against Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions, but he’s largely been conspicuous by his absence. This has got to the point where the Tory papers have been sneering at him for it, saying that Piers Morgan has been a more effective opposition. It’s a point that has also been made by Tony Greenstein. See: https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/05/if-labour-wants-to-win-next-election.html

Even if these stats show that Tory and Lib Dem voters are genuinely impressed with Starmer, that does not mean that he has popular mandate. Tory Tony Blair won over Conservative voters, but that was at the expense of traditional Labour voters and members. They left the party in droves. It was Corbyn’s achievement that he managed to win those members back, and turned the party into Britain’s largest.

But Starmer and the Blairites despise the traditional Labour base. As shown by the coups and plots during Corbyn’s leadership, they’d be quite happy with a far smaller party without traditional, socialist members. And Starmer was part of that. He was one of those who took part in the coups.

Starmer is once again following Blair’s course in wanting to appeal to Tories and Lib Dems instead of working class voters, trade unionists and socialists. He wishes to return to orthodox fiscal policies, which will mean more privatisation, including that of the NHS, and completing their destruction of the welfare state.

He wants it to become Tory Party no. 2, just as Blair did. And for working class people, that means more poverty, disease, starvation and death.

 

 

Boris Johnson: Britain’s Chairman Mao

April 29, 2020

Boris Johnson finally returned to work this Monday. As he did so, he gave us the benefit of his thoughts in a speech to the nation. This was at 9 O’clock in the morning, when some people furloughed from work may have been asleep.

Mike was one of those who watched it, and assured those who had slept through it that they weren’t missing much. It was mostly just flannel and platitudes. Johnson did manage to say something sensible. In comparing the current situation to an attack by an assailant, Johnson warned people that although we had got on top of the situation, this was no time to relax the lockdown. Even if you had your attacker on the ground, he was still dangerous and you wouldn’t take your hands off him to allow him back up in case he returned to the attack. It was the same with the lockdown and the virus.

That wasn’t what struck Mike about Johnson’s peroration, however. What he noticed, and which justifiably left Mike outraged, was our clown prime minister’s statement that we were successful in tackling the virus. What? Successful! How? The death toll is at 21,000, excluding those in care homes and at home. We have the worst death toll in Europe, above Italy and Spain, the two countries worse hit. We have our front line medical and care workers dying of this wretched disease because they don’t have the right PPE. They’re going to work in bin bags. And this is because Johnson and his cronies didn’t take the pandemic threat seriously, didn’t want to update the plans and preparations previous administrations had made for such an eventuality, and prioritised Brexit and the economy over actually shutting the country down as soon as possible to save lives. Far more could have been done, especially if Johnson had got off his well-padded, Eton-educated rear end and attended a few more Cobra meetings and actually did some work at weekends.

But the Tories and their fawning media lackeys have been falling over themselves to hail the great man’s return to health and work. Yesterday Zelo Street put up an article comparing this outburst of praise and good wishes for Boris with the official praise and acclamation given by the Chinese to Mao Zedong. Chairman Mao was hailed by his supporters as ‘the great helmsman’, and Johnson too was being lauded by the Tories in similar terms. Zelo Street reproduced a series of Tweets from the Tories stating how wonderful it was to have Boris ‘back at the helm’. Zelo Street did this to make the point that, despite claims to the contrary, this country was capable of a cult of personality similar to Communist dictatorships like North Korea and China.

Precisely, but we’ve seen it before, of course. Thatcher over here and Ronald Reagan in America have cults among their parties which can easily be compared with the Soviet cults of Lenin and Stalin. As for Mao, he was responsible for the Cultural Revolution during which 60 million Chinese died, many of them from famine caused by the party’s failed policies.  In the ten years of their government, the Tories have killed over a hundred thousand people through benefit sanctions and work capability tests, and thrown a quarter of a million people on to food banks to feed themselves. More children are growing up in poverty, homelessness has got worse and a record number of Brits are faced with the choice of whether they eat or heat their homes, ’cause they can’t do both.

And at least 21,000 people have died because of the virus, assisted by Johnson’s mistakes, complacency and sheer, bloody idleness.

So Boris certainly is Britain’s Chairman Mao in cult of personality and in the number of deaths he and his wretched party have caused.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/boris-is-new-mao-zedong.html

This is what Boris Johnson calls winning: the second-worst Covid-19 death rate in the world

 

Despite the Lockdown, Tories Still Enforcing Benefit Sanctions

April 23, 2020

Mike put this story up only a few a hours ago, and its disgusting. According to the DWP, their promise that there would not be any sanctions for three months during the Coronavirus emergency only meant that there wouldn’t be any new sanctions. If you’re already sanctioned, tough – those sanctions are still very much in place.

A young man in his early 20s, Ben, found this out the hard way according to the Mirror. He had been sanctioned earlier this year because he had not found work. He believed, however, the freeze would be lifted during the crisis, like the payment holiday for homeowners and the payments made to support employees furloughed. But this didn’t happen. After waiting a week to go shopping, he received a statement from the DWP’s online portal last Thursday that his family were entitled to a big, fat, round zero. He was directed to take out a hardship loan instead, which he would have to pay back if and when he was given benefit. Mike’s of the opinion that it’s the Tories’ plan to force him, and those like him, further into debt and hardship.

The DWP then issued its clarification to the Mirror, which stated that sanctions imposed before the freeze still continue to apply. As Mike points out, this means that people, who were led to believe that they would be helped in during the crisis, are left to fend for themselves with no money. And it’s especially harsh on the disabled, who may find it difficult coping with sanctions normally.

Fortunately, it has worked out well for Ben, as after the Mirror took up his case, the DWP reinstated his payments and gave him £1,600.

Benefit sanctions have NOT been suspended – as Universal Credit claimant found out the hard way

The Tories began replacing benefits with loans a long time ago. I think it began under John Major, when they set up the Social Fund in the DHSS as it then was. The previous system, I believe, included a series of grants that could be made to the unemployed to purchase necessities that they couldn’t afford. This was replaced by a system of loans. Some of those loans were to give claimants money to tide them over a certain period, for example if they had absolutely no money and still had to wait several days or a week for their benefit cheque. Others were for the desperately poor, who could not afford to buy certain necessities, like cookers. The system meant that those, who were already desperately poor, would be left with even less money if they were forced to take out these loans due to the repayments, which would be deducted from their benefits. Not everyone approved of the Social Fund system, and some Benefits Agency staff privately said that the previous grants system was better.

Since then, the Tories have expanded this scheme into a replacement for welfare, a policy the authors of The Violence of Austerity call ‘debtfare’. There’s an entire chapter on it, and how it is leaving people vulnerable to starvation and homelessness, as well as mental health problems from the stress of worrying about this danger and debt obligations.

But I think that’s the point. You degrade, humiliate and impoverish the poor, following Thatcher’s ‘Victorian value’ of less eligibility, so that they will do anything not to have to take up state aid. It also benefits the employers by giving them a cowed, fearful workforce, which will put up with poor wages, terrible conditions, few employment rights and insecure contracts, simply to avoid the humiliation and starvation inflicted by the DWP.

This crisis and the necessary lockdown have pushed many more Brits into poverty. We’ve already seen mass sackings, when some employers decided that rather than apply for the government’s payment of 80 per cent of their employees wages during the lockdown, they’d rather sack them instead. This would have surprised no-one, who actually knew how rapacious some business people can be. It did, however, shock the Beeb’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg. This either shows how massively naive she is in some ways, with a very idealised notion of capitalism completely at odds with what it’s like for many people. Or it shows just how insulated she is as part of an extremely affluent, metropolitan media set. Way back when Cameron was inhabiting 10 Downing Street, it was revealed just how many leading members of the lamestream media lived in his home village of Chipping Norton in the Cotswolds. And while 80 per cent of people’s wages may sound generous, it means that those, who are paid far less than the living wage and who therefore find it a struggle to cope normally, are forced even further into poverty.

The many people made unemployed and forced to rely on jobseeker’s allowance will not have magically found work by the time the lockdown is lifted. They will still be faced by the sanctions system, so there will be even more people reliant on charity and food banks, and more people forced onto the streets. Perhaps Laura Kuenssberg will be astonished by that as well. The Tories won’t, as it’s what they’re aiming for. But they will hide it from the rest of us so people keep voting for them, deluded into believing that the ranks of the unemployed has magically come down through the invocation ‘market forces’ and ‘personal responsibility’.

The sanctions system is an abomination. It should be ended now, not merely given a rest during this crisis.

 

Captain Moore’s Fundraising Is an Indictment as well as an Achievement

April 17, 2020

There was praise and celebrations across the country and, indeed, some others, yesterday at the news that Captain Tom Moore had succeeded in raising £15 million for the NHS by doing laps around his garden, all at the grand old age of 99. It’s an inspiring feat, for which Captain Moore rightly deserves the all the praise he received. The army also did their bit by providing him with a guard of honour as he did his laps.

But Mike also put up a provocative piece yesterday, which while also celebrating Captain Moore, also pointedly argues that his fundraising feat is also an indictment and distraction. It’s an indictment of the way the Tories have kept the NHS underfunded. And it’s also a distraction from the Tories catastrophic mishandling of this crisis. It keeps attention away from crucial issues, such as:

The Tories were told to buy equipment, including for ventilators and PPE, after the Health Service’s preparedness for a pandemic was tested in 2016. They didn’t.

We need mass testing to combat the epidemic, but the Tories have so far only managed 35,000 a day, and that’s reluctantly.

The disease chiefly affects those at the bottom of society, which is why ethnic minorities are disproportionately likely to suffer from it.

Mike asks why no-one in the mainstream media is asking why the Tories aren’t funding the NHS properly. And he concludes that as poor people are more likely to die than the very rich, the Tories will keep on distracting us until they decide that enough of us have died.

Cpt Tom Moore hasn’t really been found fit for work – but his fundraising shows the NHS isn’t either

These are excellent points.

The fact that no one is asking why the NHS is so underfunded is a terrifying demonstration of the way 40 years of Thatcherism has normalised charity work standing in for state provision. Thatcher wanted to dismantle the welfare state completely, including privatising the NHS. She was only prevented by doing so by a massive cabinet revolt, but since then the Tories and Blue Labour – the Blairites – have been privatising the NHS by stealth. One of the reasons Thatcher wanted to abolish the welfare state, apart from the fact that she saw it as supporting idlers – a view which she also shared with the Nazis, who called such people ‘asocial’ – was because she thought it discouraged traditional charity. If the welfare state was dismantled, the poor would not suffer, or at least, the deserving poor wouldn’t, because human generosity lead people to give more to charity. Over the other side of the Pond, former Democratic president Bill Clinton expressed this in a speech in which he said there couldn’t be a government programme for every issue, and so turned instead to private charity. And where Clinton led, Blair followed, trying to transform the Labour party into a slightly more liberal version of the Tories in the same way that Clinton had taken over much of the free market, anti-welfare ideology of the Republicans in the US. He was also profoundly influenced by Thatcher, who reciprocated, calling him her greatest achievement.

Later on, however, it appears that Thatcher realised her views about private charity were wrong. It doesn’t work like that, and is no substitute for state provision. People have not become more generous. In America, it must be recognised that religious Conservatives are, on average, more generous donors to charity than secular liberals. But charity simply isn’t able to alleviate poverty and deal with issues such as lack of proper healthcare, homelessness and so on as state action in the economy and proper welfare provision. But governments have carried on as though it was.

Thus we have continued fundraising drives for hospitals and other parts of the health service. Schools are also expected to raise part of their budgets through private fundraising by teachers and parents. And a 99 year old man has had to raise money that the government should have provided anyway as a matter of course. To which you can add that now millions of people are being kept from starvation by private charity – food banks – instead of getting the money they need to live, eat, heat their homes and clothe themselves and their families from the welfare state.

A similar point was made a few years ago by one of the American left-wing news sites on YouTube. This was after it was reported that some American teachers were too poor to run cars, but were nevertheless still determined to do their best for their pupils. The media was praising their heartwarming dedication, just as the media yesterday praised Captain Moore’s heartwarming good deed. But the news site argued that such poverty wasn’t heartwarming. Quite the opposite. Dedicated teachers deserved to be paid properly, so that they could afford possessions like cars that everyone else takes for granted.

As for distracting us from the way the government’s repeated failures is killing us, Mike has got a point. During a period of revolutionary ferment, I can’t remember whether it was the 18th or the 19th century, Austria’s chief of police or minister in charge of security was asked if he didn’t think the theatres should be closed. He replied that he wanted them kept open to divert the people away from revolution. And so we have the unedifying spectacle of the press and media encouraging us to praise the great heroes of the medical, care and other workers, who are doing their level best to combat this disease. And all the while the same newspapers have vilified the NHS, junior doctors and other medical staff for resisting Tory NHS reforms and demanding higher pay. It’s particularly disgusting that so many of those, who have lost their lives are members of ethnic minorities that the Tories have done everything they can to smear and deport. One of them came back yesterday with a poem, ‘Will You Still Clap me?’, which pointedly asked whether Brits would still continue to appreciate the contribution BAME people give our society after the crisis is over. It’s clearly struck a nerve, as the head of UKIP denounced it, as has right-wing internet personality Sargon of Gasbag, I mean Akkad.

Mike and Zelo Street have written excellent pieces attacking such hypcrisy, which can be seen at:

‘You Clap For Me Now’ poem highlights hypocrisy of coronavirus response

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/ukip-has-been-reverse-race-card-fail.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/stuff-george-cross-pay-up.html

I am not decrying for a single moment Captain Moore’s splendid fundraising effort. He deserves all the praise he gets. But the NHS also deserves to be properly funded, its workers to be properly equipped and paid, and the British people to have a proper welfare state that gives people the right money they needed to support themselves. And they absolutely deserve a far, far better media than the one we now have, which refuses to raise these issues.

As for the Tories, all they deserve is our utter, unreserved contempt.

 

 

 

Keir Starmer Now Leader of the Labour Party and the Omens Are Not Good

April 6, 2020

Saturday was Jeremy Corbyn’s last day as the leader of the Labour Party. He stepped down with good grace, sending Labour members a letter thanking them for their support and looking back on his achievements. Although he never won an election, they were considerable. In 2017 he came within a cat’s whisker of achieving power. Decades of Thatcherite neoliberal dogma were vociferously challenged by a leader who believed in its ordinary members, and in actually doing something for the working class. He put renationalisation back on the table, as well as restoring union power, better working conditions and employment rights, and a properly funded NHS. And he gave people hope. Hundreds of thousands of people, who had left or perhaps never been members, flocked to join Labour under his leadership so that it became the biggest socialist party in Europe. And the situation with the Tories was reversed. Previously the Tories had been easily the biggest political party in terms of membership. But they’ve been hemorrhaging members due to their leadership’s absolute refusal to listen to them, rather than the corporate donors that are actually keeping the party afloat. Tory membership dwindled as Labour expanded.

This terrified the Tories, and the Blairites in the Labour party, who could feel their hold in power slipping away. So they began a campaign of vicious personal vilification and smearing. Corbyn, a man of peace and fervent anti-racist, was misrepresented as an anti-Semite and friend of terrorists. Corbyn’s own programme was pretty much the Old Labour centre ground, but he was presented as an extremist, a Trotskyite, or Stalinist Commie. He frightened the corrupt Jewish establishment through his support for the Palestinians, and so they fell back on their old tactic of smearing any and all critics of Israel as anti-Semites. He was repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism and his supporters purged from the party on charges that would not stand up in a formal court of law. The Blairites fully participated in this. Whenever the Beeb or the rest of the Tory media needed someone to attack Corbyn, a Blairite could be found to scream and shout baseless accusations. They tried to split the party, overthrow him in coups, but the mass walkout they tried to engineer never happened. One of their coup attempts was so shambolic it was derisively called ‘the chicken coup’. The new, centrist party they tried to set up was a joke from the start. It gathered little more than a few members, before fizzling out.

But these campaigns had their effect. Labour lost heavily at the last election. The key issue was Brexit, with people in the north and midlands voting for the Tories because of Boris’ promise to get Brexit done. Labour’s policies of welfare improvement and renationalisation were still immensely popular,  but the abuse, lies and personal attacks had done their work. The public hated Corbyn, but if you asked them why, they couldn’t tell you. Which shows the malignant power of a mendacious, corrupt and despicable mass media.

Corbyn and his deputy, John McDonnell, have stepped down, and the party has instead replaced him with Keir Starmer as leader and Angela Rayner as deputy. It’s a lurch to the right, back to the Blairite status quo ante. Starmer has many admirable qualities. He is known for his pro bono work as a human rights lawyer, in which he took on cases for nothing. One of his clients was Doreen Lawrence, who gave him her support for his efforts on her and her former husband’s behalf trying to get their son’s killer to face justice. Starmer’s victory was almost a foregone conclusion. The press made much of the fact that he was the favourite from the first round of voting, with the support of many of the trade unions and local constituency parties.

But Starmer is a Blairite. He has promised to keep to the manifesto promises drawn up by Corbyn’s team, but it’s doubtful whether this can be trusted. As a Blairite, his instinct will be to pull the party further right – to what is mistakenly called ‘the centre ground’. He will probably jettison the promises about nationalisation, workers’ rights, a welfare state that actually gives people enough to live on, and a properly funded NHS in order to return to Blair’s tactics of triangulation. That meant finding out what the Tories were doing, then copy it. He will most likely purge the party of left-wingers, leaving it the much smaller, Tory-lite party created by Blair. And like Blair he will grovel to Murdoch and the rest of the press. Mike put up an article voicing these predictions a few days ago, and I’m very much afraid that it does look as if that’s what he’s going to do. And he won’t win back the voters Labour lost in the midlands and north. They wanted Brexit, and they turned against Labour when Starmer and his supporters insisted that it should be Labour’s policy to hold another referendum about Brexit.

There are already indications that this is the way he will go. He’s appointed to a cabinet place the odious Rachel Reeves, who has declared that Labour shouldn’t be a party for the unemployed. She announced that Labour was founded by working people, for working people, and so in power would be harder on the unemployed than the Conservatives. Well, when Labour had that attitude before the War, back in the last century, it set up what were basically forced Labour camps for the unemployed. Does she want a return to that? Or just have more people starve, as they are under the Tories.

He has also made the disastrous decision to kowtow to the Zionist organisations promoting the anti-Semitism smears. All of the candidates signed up to the demands by the Board of Deputies of British Jews for the immediate mass expulsion, with no right to any proper defence or representation, and excommunication from current members for those accused of anti-Semitism. Starmer has announced he’s determined to root out anti-Semitism in party, and has gone to meet organisations like the Board, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, and the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement. This meeting pointedly does not include the Jewish groups, that genuinely stand for socialism and which have supported Labour and Corbyn throughout – Jewdas, Jewish Voice for Labour, the Jewish Socialist Group. Starmer no doubt feels that he is clearing up the issue of anti-Semitism once and for all, but he’s just played into their hands. The loathsome Campaign Against Anti-Semitism has welcomed the move, but demanded that he now censure or expel Corbyn for anti-Semitism. Which shows you just how mean-spirited and vengeful Falter and his ghastly crew are. Starmer is now placed in the unenviable position of either attacking the party’s former leader, which will anger his supporters and lead to mass resignations, or else the CAA, Board and the rest of the scumbuckets will accuse him of being soft on anti-Semitism and kick up another round of abuse and accusations.

And this is not to mention his decision to take up Johnson’s offer and work with him and the Tories in a constructive relationship to combat the Coronavirus. I understand the logic on which it’s based. He wants to be seen as the good guy, putting the needs of the country above party in a show of national unity during the emergency. He’s not the only one who wanted to do this. So did Lisa Nandy. But what will probably happen is that he will share the blame for Boris’ failings, while Boris will take any credit for any positive actions suggested by Labour. That is how the SPD – the German equivalent of the Labour Party – lost when they went into coalition with Merkel’s Christian Democrats. Merkel and her party moved left. They took credit for improvements to Germany’s welfare system, like greater benefit payments, which were actually the work of the SPD. But they let the SPD take the blame for their failings. And people will be discouraged to see him and Johnson working together. They will feel that Labour has once again let them down to become another Tory party.

I hope this is not the case, and that Starmer keeps his promises to Labour’s members. And I hope that enough of the left remains in the party to hold him to these promises, and make matters extremely difficult for him if he tries to reject them. But the evidence so far is not good.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/04/new-labour-leader-is-keir-starmer-the-party-is-doomed/

Starmer’s first decision as Labour leader: agreement to work WITH the Tories

Starmer’s first purge: anybody in Labour tainted with accusations of anti-Semitism

Outcry as Starmer promotes anti-Semite supporter Rachel Reeves into Shadow Cabinet

 

Reply to Argument that It’s the Poor’s Own Fault They Can’t Afford Food

January 25, 2020

We’ve all heard the arguments from the Tories and their lapdogs in the press denying the reality of hunger and starvation here in the UK. Tories like Edwina Currie, amongst others, have told us that people aren’t really desperate when they go to food banks. It’s just that’s free food. Or else they can’t cook properly, or when they do eat, they choose expensive meals that they can’t afford. Now there are some individuals, to which this does apply. But it is by no means the complete picture for everyone suffering ‘food poverty’. The real causes of people going to food banks or otherwise going hungry are benefit cuts and wage stagnation. Incomes now lag behind inflation, so that many people are simply unable to afford basic food items. Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton make this very clear in their chapter, ‘Hunger and Food Poverty’, in Cooper’s and Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity. They write

Reports of rising food poverty and food bank use have largely been ignored or dismissed by the UK government, with politicians suggesting that supply is fuelling demand and blaming the poor for lacking budgeting skills, making poor food ‘choices’ and being unable to cook. In contrast to government discourse, however, research shows that the cost of food relative to disposable income (affordability) is crucial and that in the wake of the financial crisis and the subsequent policies of economic austerity, the affordability of food was severely reduced. (p. 95).

I’ve put this up because this is an argument we have heard again and again. And it’s an argument you can bet the Tories will repeat ad nauseam. But it’s garbage. And it is going to need refuting again and again with passages like the above.

This Tory lie cannot be attacked and refuted too often.

Tories Promised Fat Profits to Fracking Companies While Others Starved

January 25, 2020

Donald Trump made his contempt for environmentalists and public concerns about climate change and global warming very clear this week at Davos. He called them ‘prophets of doom’ and frankly denied the existence of global warming. As I pointed out in a previous post, this is not only in line with what the Republican base believes, but also the propaganda of Trump’s corporate sponsors in the fossil fuel industries. Trump has passed legislation to gut the Environmental Protection Agency and prevent it from publishing anything supporting climate change or global warming. The fossil fuel industry, particularly the billionaire Koch brothers, have also set up a network of lobbying and astroturf fake grassroots pressure groups to try and discredit global warming and the other environmental damage by the oil, gas and coal industries. Those same billionaires also use these networks to close down mainstream academic environmental research, and replace them with laboratories funded by themselves, which publish their approved material denying the reality of global warming.

Mike put up a post this week reporting Trump’s anti-environmentalist stance, and saying that this would be a problem for Britain if Boris Johnson is successful and makes a Brexit deal with America.

But the Tories have already shown their contempt for Green politics. Although Dave Cameron promised that his would be the ‘Greenest government ever’ and put a windmill on the roof of his house, that lasted only as long as he could get his foot in Number 10. The moment he won the election, those promises were dropped and the windmill came off his roof. And that wasn’t all. Cameron, like Trump, strongly favoured the petrochemical industries. While his government cut the welfare budget to leave the poor desperate and starving, he cut the tax for the fracking industry so that they could make even bigger projects. Vickie Cooper and David Whyte discuss this in the introduction to their The Violence of Austerity. They write

Indeed, some sectors have been seen as a vehicle for economic recovery and therefore singled out for special treatment. This partly explains the lack of any meaningful regulatory change in the financial sector but also why some high revenue sectors, such as unconventional oil and gas – or ‘fracking’, are being singled out for special treatment… In July 2013 the government announced that the fracking industry would receive a major reduction in its tax burden. Shale gas producers were told that they would be asked to pay just 30 per cent tax on profits compared to 62 per cent normally paid by the oil and gas industry. In response, Andrew Pendleton of UK Friends of the Earth observed:

Promising tax hand-outs to polluting energy firms that threaten our communities and environment, when everyone else is being told to tighten their belts, is a disgrace. (p. 19).

Fracking is particularly contentious, as not only does it pollute the water table but it also causes minor earthquakes. There have been major protests against it throughout the country, particularly against its operations in Lancashire. The Tories just before the election promised a moratorium on it, but did not refuse to stop it completely.

The Tories’ welfare cuts have led to people starving to death, as Mike’s report this morning about the death of Errol Graham. Mr Graham had problems with anxiety, and could not cope with unexpected changes and social situations. He was afraid to go out and could not meet or interact with strangers. Despite this the DWP stopped his ESA, which meant that he lost his housing benefit. He slowly starved to death. When the bailiffs broke down his door to evict him, he weighed only 4 1/2 stone.

Why are we learning about disabled Errol Graham TWO YEARS after the DWP stopped his benefits and he starved to death?

Obscene! Absolutely obscene!

And he isn’t the only one. 130,000 people have died due to austerity. But while the government is content to let people starve to death, it’s prepared to give vast profits to friends in polluting industries. Reading this, I think there’s little doubt that Boris will resume fracking the moment he’s given the opportunity. And that if and when he makes his wretched deal with Trump, it will signal real danger for our precious ‘green and pleasant land’.

This shows the foul pair’s priorities: the world burns, the poor literally starve to death, but they’re fine so long as polluting industries can foul the planet for profit.

 

Tories Pushing Children into Poverty and Stripping Them of Their Rights

January 4, 2020

Yesterday Mike commented on a piece in the Independent, which reported that, thanks to the Tories, Britain had been declared ‘inadequate’ in its protection of children’s right. Britain has now fallen from 11th to 156th place in the global rankings for children’s rights. It’s now in the bottom lowest ten performers after getting the lowest possible score in all six indicators in the Children’s Rights Environment, according to KidsRights Index 2017.

There are serious concerns about structural discrimination in the UK, particularly against Muslims following recent anti-terrorism measure, and against Gypsy and immigrant children.

I’ve already put up some stats on how the Tories’ vile austerity policy has pushed more families and children into ‘food poverty’ – meaning hunger, potential malnutrition and starvation. But the book also worries about the social impact hunger has on people. Families can no longer afford to families and friends around to share a meal, and this is raising concerns that this will also increase the social isolation of the families affected.

Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton write in their chapter on food poverty in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity

However, evidence from the PSE UK suggests that 11 per cent of households could not afford to have friends or family around for a meal or drink at least once a month in 2012 compared to 6 per cent in 1999. Furthermore, the proportion who could not afford to have a friend’s child around for tea or snack once a fortnight doubled between 1999 and 2012, from 4 per cent to 8 per cent, representing 1,000,000 children. ~Given that social relationships between children and their peers are an integral aspect of their development and well-being, the consequences are likely to be highly damaging and include increasing social exclusion and societal fragmentation. (p.97)

If ethnic minority families are particularly affected, then this will increase their exclusion and alienation from mainstream society, and could lead to some becoming dangerously radicalised. And their could be a similar effect among poor Whites, who may believe that Black and Asian families are being far better treated because of their colour through positive discrimination policies. Increasing poverty and the removal of anti-discrimination legislation and safeguards is a recipe for increasing racial tension.

Joanna Mack in her chapter on maltreatment and child mortality in the above book also gives the stats on how Britain compares with some of the other European countries: it’s abysmal. She writes

The consequences of such reductions in income is that the UK, which has long had a poor record on child poverty compared to many other nations with similar levels of economic development, has slipped further behind. Eurostat, which gathers comprehensive data from across Europe, reports that in 2014 over 22 per cent of children in the UK lived in deprived households, taken as being unable to afford three or more of a range of household items, compared to 14 per cent in France, around 12 per cent in Germany and a mere 4 per cent in Norway and Sweden. In 2007, before the austerity years, the UK’s rate was 15 per cent well below the EU average – now it is above. (p.87).

She also reports that the increase in child poverty in the UK was of such concern to the UN that it called for the reintroduction of the targets for the reduction of child poverty, which the government had repealed in 2016, and for ‘the provision ‘for clear and accountable mechanisms for the eradication of child poverty’ and the revision of recent benefit reforms.’ (p. 85).

Mike was so angry about this catastrophic reduction in Britain’s status for respecting children’s rights that he urged his readers to tell people who voted Tory about it, and that thanks to their vote, Britain will continue to fail future generations. He also urged them to ask the following questions

And tell them that discrimination against children on racial or religious grounds has been incorporated into the structure of UK society under the Conservatives.

Ask them whether they consider themselves to be racists and, if not, why they support a racist administration.

And if they say they don’t, remind them that prime minister Boris Johnson is a known racist.

Point them to the anti-Semitism in his novel if they want proof beyond his Islamophobic comments and other recent outbursts.

UK plummets from 11th to 156th in global children’s rights rankings. The Tories are responsible

Britain is becoming more racist, and its children poorer, thanks to the Tories. And it’s all so that the 1 per cent, including Bozo, Rees-Mogg and the rest of them, can get richer.

Book on Austerity as State Violence

December 21, 2019

The Violence of Austerity, Vickie Cooper and David Whyte, eds. (London: Pluto Press 2017).

Okay, I realise that this isn’t the kind of book most of us would choose to read at Christmas. We’d rather have something a bit more full of seasonal good cheer. I also realise that as it published nearly three years ago in 2017, it’s somewhat dated. But it, and books like it, are needed and still extremely topical now than 14 million people have been duped into electing Old Etonian Tory Boris Johnson.

I found the book in one of the many excellent secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. I was particularly drawn to it because of its title, and the titles of the chapters it contains. It’s a collection of papers describing the Tories’ attack on the poor, the disabled, the marginalised, the unemployed, homeless and BAME communities, and particularly women of colour, as forms of violence. This isn’t mere hyperbole. The book discusses real instances of violence by the state and its officials, as well as landlords and private corporations and individuals. Mike in his articles on the Tories’ wretched benefits sanctions has argued time and again that this is a form of state violence against the disabled, and that it constitutes genocide through the sheer scale of the deaths it has caused: 130,000 at a conservative estimate. It’s therefore extremely interesting that others attacking and campaigning against austerity share the same view. The blurb for the book runs

Austerity, the government’s response to the aftermath of the financial crisis, continues to devastate contemporary Britain. Thius books brings together campaigners and writers including Danny Dorling, Mary O’Hara and Rizwaan Sabir to show that austerity is a form of systematic violence.

Covering notorious cases of institutional violence, including workfare, fracking and mental health scandals, the book argues that police attacks on the homeless, violent evictions in the rented sector, community violence and cuts to the regulation of the social protection are all being driven by reductions in public sector funding. The result is a shocking exposes of the ways in which austerity policies harm people in Britain.

One of the editors, Vickie Cooper, is a lecturer in Social Policy and Criminology at the Open University, while the other, David Whyte, is professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Liverpool. He is also the editor of How Corrupt Is Britain, another scathing look at the UK under the Tories.

The book’s introduction by the editors is on the violence of austerity. After that it is divided into four sections, each on different aspects of austerity and its maltreatment of the poor.

Part 1, ‘Deadly Welfare’, contains the following chapters

  1. Mental Health and Suicide, by Mary O’Hara
  2. Austerity and Mortality, by Danny Dorling
  3. Welfare Reforms and the Attack on Disabled People, by John Pring
  4. The Violence of Workfare by Jon Burnett and David Whyte
  5. The Multiple Forms of Violence in the Asylum System by Victoria Canning
  6. The Degradation and Humiliation of Young People, by Emma Bond and Simon Hallsworth.

Part II, ‘Poverty Amplification’, has these

7. Child Maltreatment and Child Mortality, by Joanna Mack
8. Hunger and Food Poverty, by Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton
9. The Deadly Impact of Fuel Poverty, by Ruth London
10. The Violence of the Debtfare State, by David Ellis
11. Women of Colour’s Anti-Austerity Activism, by Akwugo Emejulu and Leah Bassel
12. Dismantling the Irish Peace Process, by Daniel Holder

Part III, ‘State Regulation’, includes

13. Undoing State Protection, by Steve Tombs
14. Health and Safety at the Frontline of Austerity, by Hilda Palmer and David Whyte
15. Environmental Degradation, by Charlotte Burns and Paul Tobin
16. Fracking and State Violence, by Will Jackson, Helen Monk and Joanna Gilmore
17. Domicide, Eviction and Repossession, by Kirsteen Paton and Vickie Cooper
18. Austerity’s Impact on Rough Sleeping and Violence, by Daniel McCulloch.

Part IV, ‘State Control’, has these chapters

19. Legalising the Violence of Austerity, by Robert Knox
20. The Failure to Protect Women in the Criminal Justice System, by Maureen Mansfield and Vickie Cooper
21. Austerity, Violence and Prisons, by Joe Sim
22. Evicting Manchester’s Street Homeless, by Steven Speed
23. Policing Anti-Austerity through the ‘War on Terror’ by Rizwaan Sabir
24. Austerity and the Production of Hate, by Jon Burnett.

These are all subjects that left-wing blogs like Vox Political, Another Angry Voice, Pride’s Purge have all covered and discussed. The last chapter, ‘Austerity and the Production of Hate’, is on a subject that Mike’s discussed several times in Vox Political: the way the Tory press and media justifies the savage attacks on the poor and disabled through stirring up hatred against them. Mike has published several articles on the way Tory propaganda has resulted in vicious attacks on the poor, particularly the homeless.

This violence and campaign of hatred isn’t going to stop after Boris’ victory, and his appeal for healing after the election is just rhetoric. He doesn’t want healing, he wants compliance and complacency. He doesn’t deserve them, and should not be given any, because from now on he and his party will only step up the attacks.

Don’t be taken in by establishment lies. Keep working to get him out!