Posts Tagged ‘Stock Exchange’

Tony Benn: Socialism Needed to Prevent Massive Abuse by Private Industry

January 7, 2019

In the chapter ‘Labour’s Industrial Programme’ in his 1979 book, Arguments for Socialism, Tony Benn makes a very strong case for the extension of public ownership. This is needed, he argued, to prevent serious abuse by private corporations. This included not just unscrupulous and unjust business policies, like one medical company overcharging the health service for its products, but also serious threats to democracy. Benn is also rightly outraged by the way companies can be bought and sold without the consultation of their workers. He writes

The 1970s provided us with many examples of the abuse of financial power. There were individual scandals such as the one involving Lonrho which the Conservative Prime Minister, Mr Heath, described as the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’. Firms may be able to get away with the payment of 38,000 pounds a year to part-time chairmen if no one else knows about it. But when it becomes public and we know that the chairman, as a Conservative M.P., supports a statutory wages policy to keep down the wage of low-paid workers, some earning less than 20 pounds a week at the time, it becomes intolerable. There was the case of the drug company, Hoffman-La Roche, who were grossly overcharging the National Health Service. There was also the initial refusal by Distillers to compensate the thalidomide children properly.

There were other broader scandals such as those involving speculation in property and agricultural land; the whole industry of tax avoidance; the casino-like atmosphere of the Stock Exchange. Millions of people who experience real problems in Britain are gradually learning all this on radio and television and from the press. Such things are a cynical affront to the struggle that ordinary people have to feed and clothe their families.

But the problem goes deeper than that. Workers have no legal rights to be consulted when the firms for which they work are taken over. They are sold off like cattle when a firm changes hands with no guarantee for the future. The rapid growth of trade union membership among white-collar workers and even managers indicates the strength of feelings about that. Not just the economic but also the political power of big business, especially the multinationals, has come into the open.

In Chile the ITT plotted to overthrow an elected President. The American arms companies, Lockheed and Northrop, have been shown to have civil servants, generals, ministers and even prime ministers, in democratic countries as well as dictatorships, on their payroll. The Watergate revelations have shown how big business funds were used in an attempt to corrupt the American democratic process. In Britain we have had massive political campaigns also financed by big business to oppose the Labour Party’s programme for public ownership and to secure the re-election of Conservative governments. Big business also underwrote the cost of the campaign to keep Britain in the Common Market at the time of the 1975 referendum. (pp. 49-50).

Benn then moves to discuss the threat of the sheer amount of power held by big business and the financial houses.

Leaving aside the question of abuse, the sheer concentration of industrial and economic power is now a major political factor. The spate of mergers in recent years in Britain alone – and their expected continuation – can be expressed like this: in 1950 the top 100 companies in Britain produced about 20 per cent of the national output. By 1973 they produced 46 per cent. And at this rate, by 1980, they will produce 66 per cent – two-thirds of our national output. Many of them will be operating multinationally, exporting capital and jobs and siphoning off profits to where the taxes are most profitable.

The banks, insurance companies and financial institutions are also immensely powerful. In June 1973 I was invited to speak at a conference organised by the Financial Times and the Investors Chronicle. It was held in the London Hilton, and before going I added up the total assets of the banks and other financial institutions represented in the audience. They were worth at that time about 95,000 million pounds. This was at the time about twice as much as the Gross National Product of the United Kingdom and four or five times the total sum raised in taxation by the British government each year. (p.50).

He then goes on to argue that the Labour party has to confront what this concentration of industrial and financial power means for British democracy and its institutions, and suggests some solutions.

The Labour Party must ask what effect all this power will have on the nature of our democracy. Britain is proud of its system of parliamentary democracy, its local democracy and its free trade unions. But rising against this we have the growing power of the Common Market which will strip our elected House of Commons of its control over some key economic decisions. This has greatly weakened British democracy at a time when economic power is growing stronger.

I have spelled this out because it is the background against which our policy proposals have been developed. In the light of our experience in earlier governments we believed it would necessary for government to have far greater powers over industry. These are some of the measures we were aiming at in the Industry Bill presented to Parliament in 1975, shortly after our return to power:

The right to require disclosure of information by companies
The right of government to invest in private companies requiring support.
The provision for joint planning between government and firms.
The right to acquire firms, with the approval of Parliament.
The right to protect firms from takeovers.
The extension of the present insurance companies’ provisions for ministerial control over board members.
The extension of the idea of Receivership to cover the defence of the interests of workers and the nation.
Safeguards against the abuse of power by global companies.

If we are to have a managed economy-and that seems to be accepted – the question is: ‘In whose interests is it to be managed?’ We intend to manage it in the interests of working people and their families. But we do not accept the present corporate structure of Government Boards, Commissions and Agents, working secretly and not accountable to Parliament. The powers we want must be subjected to House of Commons approval when they are exercised. (pp. 50-1).

I don’t know what proportion of our economy is now dominated by big business and the multinationals, but there is absolutely no doubt that the situation after nearly forty years of Thatcherism is now much worse. British firms, including our public utilities, have been bought by foreign multinationals, are British jobs are being outsourced to eastern Europe and India.

There has also been a massive corporate takeover of government. The political parties have become increasingly reliant on corporate donations from industries, that then seek to set the agenda and influence the policies of the parties to which they have given money. The Conservatives are dying from the way they have consistently ignored the wishes of their grassroots, and seem to be kept alive by donations from American hedge fund firms. Under Blair and Brown, an alarmingly large number of government posts were filled by senior managers and officials from private firms. Both New Labour and the Tories were keen to sell off government enterprises to private industry, most notoriously to the firms that bankrolled them. And they put staff from private companies in charge of the very government departments that should have been regulating them. See George Monbiot’s Captive State.

In America this process has gone so far in both the Democrat and Republican parties that Harvard University in a report concluded that America was no longer a functioning democracy, but a form of corporate oligarchy.

The Austrian Marxist thinker, Karl Kautsky, believed that socialists should only take industries into public ownership when the number of firms in them had been reduced through bankruptcies and mergers to a monopoly. Following this reasoning, many of the big companies now dominating modern Britain, including the big supermarkets, should have been nationalized long ago.

Tony Benn was and still is absolutely right about corporate power, and the means to curb it. It’s why the Thatcherite press reviled him as a Communist and a maniac. We now no longer live in a planned economy, but the cosy, corrupt arrangements between big business, the Tories, Lib Dems and New Labour, continues. Ha-Joon Chang in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism argues very strongly that we need to return to economic planning. In this case, we need to go back to the policies of the ’70s that Thatcher claimed had failed, and extend them.

And if that’s true, then the forty years of laissez-faire capitalism ushered in by Thatcher and Reagan is an utter, utter failure. It’s time it was discarded.

George Galloway: Torygraph Publishes Piece Speculating on Coup to Overthrow Corbyn

May 12, 2018

This is an excerpt from George Galloway’s Talk Radio Show, which I found on YouTube. He begins with talking about a conversation he had with James Whale, a fellow presenter, about the dangerous situation in the Middle East, where Israel is now facing an Arab, Russian and Iranian enemy. He pours scorn, however, on the juvenile scribblers, as Galloway sees it, who claimed that the missiles shot at the Golan Heights had entered Israel. Galloway states that the Golan Heights were illegally seized by Israel from Syria, and so are not part of Israel, no matter what the hacks say.

He then goes on to talk about Theresa May’s volte face, which has meant that victims of the Grenfell Tower fire will now be allowed onto the board investigating it. After that, he moves on to talking about how the Brexit negotiations are an appalling mess, and the whole affair something which all of us will have difficulty getting out of.

But the main subject of his ire is a piece published by Paul Carter in the Torygraph the day before, which may be 10th May 2018. The Torygraph had speculated on the possibility of a military coup against Corbyn. Galloway describes the article as chilling, and states that its author, Paul Carter, has no footprint in social media. The article claims that this coup would occur if the labour leader was elected to power and proceeded to enact to enact three particular policies. These were conducting a referendum to abolish the monarchy, taking us out of NATO, and taking us out of the western foreign policy consensus. Galloway himself wishes Corbyn would do all these, but the Labour leader will certainly not do any of them. The proximate cause of the Torygraph article is that it is 50 years since Mountbatten and the editor of the Mirror met to plan a coup against the Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson. Galloway states that Wilson was a political giant, who dominated the sixties and much of the seventies. He was right-wing Labour, a social democrat. But he had his house burgled and his mail intercepted because it was suspected that he was a Russian secret agent. If the coup had gone ahead, the country would probably be led by Mountbatten from the Despatch Box, probably from the House of Lords, unless he resigned and fought a bye-election. Not that such constitutional niceties would bother people, who had just overthrown their democratically elected leader.

He also makes the point that there were plans to intern 4,000 other leftists, including journalists, on the Shetland Islands. Galloway himself was too young at the time, but if they did launch a coup against Corbyn, this would be the last you’d hear of him for a long time, unless he managed to get onto Radio Free Shetland. He notes one expert, who has said that it would be much harder to launch a coup now that people have mobile phones and social media. It was easier fifty years ago when it was the editors of the newspapers to overthrow the government. But Corbyn would be wise to keep his mobile phone handy. If they did launch a coup, then millions would pour onto the streets to defended their elected leader? Or would they? Galloway leaves this as a matter of discussion for later in the programme. He says that eventually the plans for the coup were abandoned, because the conspirators thought better, including the government’s scientific advisor, Solly Zuckerman. But Galloway thinks this is false, and that they simply got cold feet.

Galloway then closes the segment with a piece about how popular the woman presenting the weather reports is becoming.

This is worrying, as it looks like a combination of smear piece and speculation by the Torygraph. Corbyn hasn’t any intention of trying to abolish the monarchy, taking us out of NATO or acting against the current foreign policy consensus, so it’s a smear to suggest that he might. The absence of any social media footprint for Paul Carter suggests that this is a pseudonym. And this in turn invites speculation that it’s someone from MI5 or another branch of the security services.

This wouldn’t be the first time MI5’s been acting against the government, if this is the case. The agency was convinced Wilson really was a KGB spy, and Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, have suggested that it was behind the smears circulating then about the Labour leader.

As for the coup they’re discussing, the plotting occurred later than the article claims. Mountbatten and the editor of the Mirror were making their plans in the mid-70s. And the Times was also looking forward to Wilson being toppled, though replaced by a civilian government of trusted members of the Labour party, like Shirley Williams, as well the Tories. These plots are discussed in Francis Wheen’s book, Strange Days Indeed: Paranoia in the 1970s, and by Ken Livinstone in his book Livingstone’s Labour. The date’s out, but otherwise everything that Galloway’s said about the proposed coup is correct. One of the reasons it failed is because one of the plotters approached Sandhurst, to ask if the old colonels there would help. They said they wouldn’t, and sent him away. Hurrah for Sandhurst!

Galloway says at the beginning of his discussion of the article that no-one else was talking about it. Which suggests that this is purely speculation and wishful thinking by the Weirdo Barclay Brothers and the paper’s managing director, Murdoch McLellan, and whoever is now the editor of this wretched rag. The paper’s been running articles attacking Corbyn, claiming that he’s an anti-Semite and so on, along with the Daily Mail. But this shows more than a hint of real desperation. For all the Tory and media talk about ‘peak Corbyn’, it seems they really afraid he’ll win the election. In which case, they want the troops to overthrow him. Not because they’re afraid he’ll do all the things they claim he will, but because his very mild socialist programme will cause the end of the Thatcherite consensus. The corporate rich could no longer look forward to a privatised NHS and railways, and parts of the electricity grid would also be renationalised, would which would also upset corporate profits. Not to mention that they could no longer rely on having a cowed, cheap workforce of the desperate on poverty wages, on zero hours contracts and kept in line by the threat of benefit sanctions and starvation.

This is all too much for the Torygraph and its scribblers. So they’ve started fantasising about the possibility of a coup. Just like the British stock exchange cheered the Fascists when they revolted against the Republican government at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

The Torygraph has just about gone full Fascist with this article. And its publication is more than a bit hypocritical for the Tories. Not after they went berserk and accused Hilary Mantel of encouraging terrorism when she published her short story, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. But this shows just how far Corbyn has rattled the Tories, and shown how some of them, at least as for the Torygraph itself, have started hankering after a coup to stop him.

Fox News Drools over Mandatory Patriotism Class in College of the Ozarks

November 2, 2017

The use of patriotism as a disguise for right-wing indoctrination gets another boost in this small section of the American education system. In this clip from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski talks about a piece on Fox News, where they discuss the introduction of a new, mandatory freshman class on patriotism and the military at the College of the Ozarks with the college’s president, Gerry Davis. Actually, discuss is probably not the right word. ‘Rave about’ and ‘fawn over’ are probably better descriptors.

Davis states that the course will including rifle shooting, map reading and tying knots, as well as respect for the flag, as these parts of the curriculum are modelled on basic training in the American military. He states that everyone in America owes a debt to their armed forces. As for sport, he states that the college football and other sports teams would not play another side, whose team members refused to stand for the flag. And he states that it’s disrespectful for a squaddie, who’s served in Afghanistan, to have to see some multi-millionaire kneeling. This is clearly a reference to Colin Kaepernick and the other American football players, who have knelt when the flag is raised before games to show their support for Black Lives Matter and protest the shooting of unarmed Blacks.

Kulinski is understandable bitterly critical about the double standards towards free speech shown by the college and its administrators, and by the Republicans towards peaceful protest. He states that if others were assembling a course on patriotism, a few of the things they might put in it could be the Civil Rights movement, perhaps the New Deal, and the Constitution. But none of those are included, because it doesn’t reflect the personal tastes of Davis himself. And any course on patriotism should include how great it is to live in a country, that will allow you to burn the flag in a peaceful protest. He points out that peaceful protest is one of the most American of institutions. But this move means that it is ruled out, and there is literally no way people can express their feelings about injustice as these are also angrily denounced or suppressed by the patriotic right. If they march in the street, they’re accused of making a mountain out of a molehill. They can’t riot without being denounced, obviously, and so, with simply kneeling for the flag also attacked, there is simply nothing they can do to raise awareness of the issue of the cops killing innocent Blacks. And this is the attitude of the American patriotic right.

Who claim they are the defenders of free speech, except when it challenges the flag and the military. ‘You f***ing hypocrites’, Kulinski describes them.

As for ending the cavalier judicial murder of Black Americans, Kulinski suggests this could be done by passing laws setting up community policing, making all police wear body cameras and ending the war on drugs.

He ends by saying that if these people were truly concerned with patriotism, they’d be willing to let people kneel for the flag, even if they didn’t agree with them. But instead the president of the US himself, has said that people should fired for doing so.

Kulinski’s right about all of this, and the issue of respecting the flag has been raised before. Back in the 1980s when Reagan was in the White House, there was a storm of outrage when a young member of the Communist party publicly burned the flag in protest at Reagan’s policies. The great American comedian, Bill Hicks, lampooned the Republican protests and loud denunciations which followed.

He said he didn’t want anyone to burn the flag. But the flag wasn’t freedom. You can’t burn freedom because freedom is freedom. And that includes the freedom to burn the flag. Or words to that effect. It’s a long time since I listened to the joke.

As for Americans owing something to the military, that’s true up to a point. This arguably begins and ends round about the Second World War and the attack on Pearl Harbour. The other wars America has fought across the globe have not been about protecting America or democracy, but preserving capitalism against the threat of Communism. This has meant the overthrow of even moderately liberal or reformist governments in order to protect and extend American corporate interests. 9/11 was an act of war against America, but the western armed forces that are now stationed in the country have long outstayed any residual welcome they may have had, and are now in fact actively counterproductive in that they are creating opposition to the West. And the subsequent invasions and military actions that have taken place under the guise of the War on Terror, such as the Iraq invasion, the bombing of Syria and the overthrow of Gaddafi, are simply more geopolitical imperialist adventures, in which the lives of brave squaddies are being spilt simply to boost the profits of big corporations.

Perhaps if America and the West genuinely wanted to respect our troops, we would just make sure they’d only be sent in when our security was directly threatened. And not as cannon-fodder for Raytheon and the other defence contractors to make another killing on the stock exchange.

Vox Political on Ian Hislop and the Beeb’s Anti-Corbyn Bias

December 17, 2016

Mike early today put up a post commenting on another example of the Beeb’s bias against Jeremy Corbyn, this time on last night’s Have I Got News For You. Hislop had made the comment, When you find yourself agreeing with Jeremy Corbyn, you know the country is in a mess.’

Mike states

If the BBC had any real interest in its stated commitment to political impartiality, one of the other panel members, or guest host Gary Lineker, would have jumped in to say that agreeing with Theresa May and the Tories is what put the country in a mess in the first place. But that didn’t happen.

And concludes

This man is the editor of Private Eye. Do you think he bothers to keep his political bias out of the magazine? Neither do I.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/17/hislops-jeremy-corbyn-jibe-what-happened-to-bbc-impartiality/

I don’t have to speculate if Hislop is keeping his own personal political bias out of Private Eye. I’ve stopped reading it because he blatantly hasn’t. There are plenty of stories attacking Corbyn and the ‘click-bait’ web site that supports him, The Canary, but absolutely none supporting the Labour leader. The satirical magazine has been running a feature, Focus on Fact, which is devoted to attacking him. This seems to come from embittered Blairites, as many of the stories in there seem to be about internal party disputes from the 1980s.

I’ve blogged before about how I’ve stopped reading the Eye because of this consistent bias against Corbyn, despite the excellent work the magazine has also done attacking privatisation, including that of the NHS. But it needs to remembered that Private Eye and its founders were very much part of the establishment. Richard Ingrams, Willie Rushton, Auberon Waugh, Peter Cook and Ian Hislop himself are all very middle class, ex-public schoolboys. Auberon Waugh was notorious for his own extremely Tory and reactionary views, writing columns for the Torygraph sneering at the Greenham women and teachers, for example. His family were also connected to MI5, and he may have been one of the conduits for the intelligence agency’s attempt to smear Harold Wilson as a KGB agent in the 1970s, according to Lobster.

The Eye is not just biased about domestic politics. It has frequently run pieces about the Ukraine in its Letter from… column, which has unwaveringly presented the line that the current vile regime in Kyiv is entirely democratic and is under threat from Putin, the new Grand Duke of Moscow, who is trying to set himself up as the next Tsar of all the Russias and the true heir to Ivan the Terrible. There is no mention that the current Ukrainian regime includes neo-Nazis, determined to persecute genuinely independent journalists, and who have beaten and brutalised members of the Ukrainian left, just as the regime is genuinely responsible for persecuting ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

As for the BBC, I recently posted a piece about a book I found in Waterstones, The BBC and the Myth of Public Broadcasting, which makes the case that the BBC is extremely biased towards the corporate establishment and the Conservatives. This should surprise no-one on the left. Mike and several other left-wing blogs have published articles about the finding by academics at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities that the Beeb is more likely to favour Conservative MPs and managing directors and spokespeople for the stock exchange over Labour MPs and trade unionists. And the Corporation is also very culpably silent about the privatisation of the NHS.

Hislop’s comment last night is another example of this bias. It’s also the reason why I don’t buy Private Eye, and indeed, can no longer stand watching Have I Got News For You.

Book Review: The Great City Academy Fraud – Part 1

July 13, 2016

Academy Fraud Pic

By Francis Beckett (London: Continuum 2007)

This is another book I managed to pick up from a cheap bookshop, in this case the £3 bookshop in Bristol’s Park Street. Although published nine years ago in 2007, it’s still very acutely relevant, with the plan of the current education minister, Thicky Nicky Morgan, to try to turn most schools into privately run academies. According to the back flap, Beckett was the education correspondent of the New Statesman from 1997 to 2005, and also wrote on education for the Guardian. The book’s strongly informed by the findings of the NUT and other teaching unions, whose booklets against academies are cited in the text. And its a grim read. It’s an important subject, so important in fact, that I’ve written a long review of this book, divided into four section.

Academies: Another Secondhand Tory Policy

Much of New Labour’s threadbare ideology was just revamped, discarded Tory ideas. This was clearly shown before Blair took power in the early 1990s, when John Major’s government dumped a report compiled by the consultants Arthur Anderson. This was immediately picked up, dusted off, and became official New Labour policy. Similarly, PFI was invented by the Tories man with a little list, Peter Lilley, who was upset ’cause private industry couldn’t get its claws into the NHS. This again was taken over by New Labour, and became the cornerstone of Blair’s and Brown’s ideas of funding the public sector. Academies, initially called ‘city academies’, were the same.

Basically, they’re just a revival of the City Technology Colleges set up in the mid 1980s by Thatcher’s education secretary, Kenneth Baker. Baker decided that the best way to solve the problem of failing schools was to take them out of the control of the local education authority, and hand them over to a private sponsor. These would contribute £2 million of their own money to financing the new school, and the state would do the rest. Despite lauding the scheme as innovative and successful, Baker found it impossible to recruit the high profile sponsors in big business he wanted. BP, which is very active supporting community projects, flatly told him they weren’t interested, as the project was ‘too divisive’. Another organisation, which campaigns to raise private money for public projects, also turned it down, stating that the money would best be spent coming from the government. It was an area for state funding, not private. The result was that Baker was only able to get interest for second-order ‘entrepreneurs’, who were very unwilling to put their money into it. From being a minimum, that £2 million funding recommendation became a maximum. And so the scheme was wound up three years later in 1990.

After initially denouncing such schemes, New Labour showed its complete hypocrisy by trying out a second version of them, the Education Action Zones. Which also collapsed due to lack of interest. Then, in 2000, David Blunkett announced his intention to launch the academy system, then dubbed ‘city academies’, in 2000 in a speech to the Social Market Foundation. Again, private entrepreneurs were expected to contribute £2 million of their money, for which they would gain absolute control of how the new school was to be run. The taxpayer would provide the rest. Again, there were problems finding appropriate sponsors. Big business again wouldn’t touch it, so the government turned instead to the lesser businessmen, like Peter Vardy, a car salesman and evangelical Christian. Other interested parties included the Christian churches, like the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and evangelical educational bodies like the United Learning Trust. There were also a number of universities involved, such as the University of the West of England here in Bristol, and some sports organisations, like Bristol City Football club. Some private, fee-paying schools have also turned themselves into academies as away of competing with other private schools in their area.

Taxpayers Foot the Bill

While the sponsors are supposed to stump up £2 million, or in certain circumstances, more like £1.5 million, in practice this isn’t always the case. The legislation states that they can also pay ‘in kind’. Several have provided some money, and then provided the rest of their contribution with services such as consultation, estimated according to a very generous scale. For Beckett, this consists of the sponsors sending an aging executive to give his advice on the running of the new school. This particular individual may actually be past it, but the company can’t sack him. So they fob the new school off with him instead. Sometimes, no money changes hands. The Royal Haberdashers’ Society, one of the London livery companies, decided it was going to sponsor an academy. But it already owned a school on the existing site, and so did nothing more than give the site, generously estimate at several millions, to the new academy. Other companies get their money back in different ways, through tax rebates, deductions and the like.

But if the private sponsors are very wary about spending their money, they have absolutely no reservations about spending the taxpayer’s hard-earned moolah. An ordinary school costs something like £20 million to build. Academies cost more, often much more: £25 million, sometimes soaring to £37 million or beyond. Several of the businessmen sponsoring these academies have built massive monuments to their own vanity, using the services of Sir Norman Foster. Foster was, like Richard Rogers, one of the celebrity architects in favour with New Labour, whose ‘monstrous carbuncles’ (@ Charles Windsor) were considered the acme of cool. One of these was called ‘The Learning Curve’, and consisted of a long, curving corridor stretching across a quarter of mile, off which were the individual class rooms. Foster also built the Bexley Business Academy, a school, whose sponsor wanted to turn the pupils into little entrepreneurs. So every Friday was devoted exclusively to business studies, and the centrepiece of the entire joint was a mock stock exchange floor. The school also had an ‘innovative’ attitude to class room design: they only had three walls, in order to improve supervise and prevent bullying. In fact, the reverse happened, and the school had to spend more money putting them up.

Unsuitable Buildings

And some of the buildings designed by the academies’ pet architects are most unsuitable for the children they are supposed to serve. One academy decided it was going to get the local school for special needs children on its site. These were kids with various types of handicap. Their school was not certainly not failing, and parents and teachers most definitely did not want their school closed. But closed it was, and shifted to the academy. The old school for handicapped youngsters was all on the same level, which meant that access was easy, or easier, for those kids with mobility problems. The new school was on two floors. There was a lift, but it could only be used by pupils with a teacher. The parents told the sponsor and the new academy that they had destroyed their children’s independence. They were greeted with complete incomprehension.

HM School ‘Belmarshe’

In other academies, conditions for the sprogs are more like those in a prison. One of the schools, which preceded an academy on its site, had a problem with bullying. The new academy decided to combat that problem, by not having a playground. They also staggered lunch into two ‘brunch breaks’, which were taken at different times by different classes. These are taken in a windowless cafeteria. The result is a joyless learning environment, and the school has acquired the nickname ‘Belmarshe’, after the famous nick.

Ken Livingstone on How Nazism Discredited Post-War European Conservatives

May 30, 2016

‘Red’ Ken Livingstone in his book, Livingstone’s Labour, also has some very interesting things to say about how the capitalist classes’ deep involvement with Nazism and Fascism so discredited Germany and Italian Conservatism, that they presented themselves in a pseudo-Socialist guise after the War.

As regards the parties of the right, the creation of stable political structures was more complicated than merely rebuilding the economy and creating military alliances. The right-wing parties, and in a number of countries the bulk of capital, was deeply compromised by collaboration with Fascism and Nazi occupation. In the initial post-war period fight-wing parties had to pretend they were on the left – or at least not of the right. The West German Christian Democrats, in their 1947 programme, stated that the ‘capitalist economic system’ had not served the interests of the German people, and called for ‘a new order built right from the ground’ based on ‘an economic system of collective ownership’. Alcide de Gasperi defined the Italian Christian Democrats as ‘a party of the centre moving towards the left’. the Belgian Social Christian Party proclaimed itself as ‘an inter-class party, whose main objective was to achieve social and economic justice in a united, democratic Belgium’. (P. 175).

Both the Italian and German Christian Democrats were partly formed from the remains of the pre-War Roman Catholic parties, such as the Catholic Centre Party in Germany. These had been originally founded to protect Roman Catholics in the new countries which emerged after the campaigns of Bismarck, Garibaldi and Cavour. Wilhelmine Germany was the creation of Protestant Prussia, which fought a political battle with the Church – the Kulturkampf – over control of education, while liberal Italy was secular, often aggressively so. The Catholic Centre party had adopted some of the attitudes of Christian Socialism, while rejecting the class struggle and the abolition of private property. Clerics and activists for the party founded Christian trade unions and co-operatives. It was this, leftward element in these parties’ constitutions that they chose to stress to avoid condemnation as collaborators with Nazism and Fascism after the War.

And just as early post-War Conservatism tried to distance itself from Nazism and Fascism, so British Conservatives are very quiet about the support they also gave Hitler’s Germany and Franco’s Spain. Winston Churchill hailed Mussolini as ‘the Italian lawgiver’ in his History of the Second World War. Orwell in one of his books talks about the British stock exchange cheering General Franco, and ‘Gracchus’, the author of Your MP, lists the various Tory MPs, who voted against the welfare state and actively supported Nazi Germany.

This has nearly all been written out of history. The official hagiographies of Churchill present him as a fierce opponent of Fascism, even though he wasn’t. He merely objected to the Fascist countries threat to British power. And Thatcher’s 1987 party political broadcast for the elections featured images of zooming Spitfires and the rest of what the satirist Alan Coren dubbed ‘the Royal Conservative Air Force’ to hammer home the message of how patriotic and anti-totalitarian the Tories were.

Thatcher’s own assault on the trade unions and the working class, and the continued campaign by her successors, Major and Cameron, show that this is far from true. Cameron in particular is deeply authoritarian, and in favour of a pervasive government secrecy, in which the upper classes rule without restraint and the working class have to obey unquestioningly. And they were deeply concerned with the totalitarian project of controlling the past. Michael Gove, when he was education minister, wanted an official, pro-Tory view taught, and ranted about how misleading Black Adder Goes Forth Was, despite the fact that it was comedy, not fact. The totalitarian desire to control absolutely is still deeply ingrained in modern Conservatism.

Vox Political: Grayson Perry Sculpts Bell-End to Represent Bankers

May 21, 2016

Mike also put up another hilarious article on Thursday about a piece of work Grayson Perry produced to represented the financial sector. Perry’s a Turner-prize winning artist, specialising in pottery and ceramics. He found the world of banking and finance to be increasing male the further one went up the hierarchy. To symbolise this, he sculpted a giant phallus, embossed with pound coins, and the heads of bankers, including George Osborne.

See the article at:http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/19/artist-embosses-sculpture-about-bankers-with-george-osbornes-face-heres-what-it-looks-like/ Warning for those easily shocked: it’s got a picture of the pottery penis in question.

Perry states that it’s not his most subtle work. Possibly not, but it is accurate. There have been a number of scandals about the lack of women in the upper levels of the financial sector, and it is a very, very masculine environment. One report about the imbalance said that not only were there very sexist attitudes towards women – they were divided up into ‘babes’, ‘mums’ and ‘dragons’ – but that the bankers themselves had a very cynical and exploitative attitude to their clients. Indeed, they often boasted about how they had shafted them. This is the world of the Wolf of Wall Street and Gordon Gecko.

And quite often members of the financial sector do describe themselves in phallic terms. One financial whizzkid, whose book was reviewed back in the 1990s by Private Eye, even described himself as ‘a big swinging dick on the stockmarket floor’.

You can also find support for Perry’s ceramic penis from the sociobiological interpretation of mythology. One academic used sociobiology, or as it is now, evolutionary psychology, to explain the phallic shape of ancient Greek herms, or boundary markers. He noticed that troops of baboons similar post guards with erect willies as sentries when out foraging, and males also engage in ‘penis fencing’. He therefore concluded that the shape of the herms was a similar primate display of masculine guardianship over place. You could therefore argue that Perry’s pottery penis is thus an apt sociobiological comment on the extremely culturally phallocentric culture of the financial sector.

Or am I reading too much into this?

As Freud said, ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.’

Monbiot’s List of the Corporate Politicos in Blair’s Government: Part Two

April 23, 2016

Stephanie Monk

Human Resources director, Granada Group plc., which appealed against an industrial tribunal to reinstate workers sacked for going on strike after their pay was cut from £140 to £100 a week.

Member of the Low Pay Commission on the minimum wage, and the New Deal Taskforce.

Sue Clifton

Executive director, Group 4, criticised for mishandling of child offenders after escapes, bullying, riots and attacks on staff.

Advisor to the government’s Youth Justice Board on how young offenders should be handled.

Keith McCullagh

Chief executive of British Biotech. This company has been repeatedly censured by the Stock Exchange, particularly when it was revealed that it’s leading drug product didn’t work.

Chairman of the government’s Finance Advisory Group to help high-tech companies gain financial investors’ confidence.

Sir Robin Biggam

Non-executive director, British Aerospace, which sells weapons to Turkey, some of which are used against the Kurdish separatists.

Chairman of the Independent Television Commission. This revoked the license of the Kurdish satellite station Med TV because of complaints from Turkey that it gave a platform to Kurdish separatists.

Neville Bain

Non-executive director, Safeway, one of the supermarkets which was swallowing branches of the Post Office.

Made chairman of the Post Office.

Robert Osborne

Head of Special Projects division of Tarmac Plc, one of the major constructors of PFI hospitals.

Chief Executive of the Department of Health’s Private Finance Unit. In 1998, returned to Tarmac to run PFI division.

David Steeds

Corporate Development Director of Serco Group Plc.

Chief executive of the government’s Private Finance Panel.

Tony Edwards

Director of the TI Group, which owned Matrix Churchill, the company which provided machine tools to manufacture arms to the Iraqis. He is the company’s chief executive, which is engaged in 150 military operations around the world.

Head of the government’s Defence Export Services Organisation, advising the government on granting licenses to companies wishing to sell arms to different countries around the world.

Neil Caldwell

Director of PTBRO, the distributor of the government’s landfill tax money, for which it receives 10 per cent of the amount handled in administration fees.

Director of Entrust, the regulatory body supervising the distribution of landfill tax money.

Judith Hanratty

Company Secretary, BP-Amoco Plc, one of the most controversial mergers of the 1990s as it amalgamated two of the world’s biggest companies.

On the board of the Competition Commission, monitoring and regulating corporate mergers.

John Rickford

On the board of BT, which has been frequently attacked for having too great a share of the market.

On the board of the Competition Commission.

Sir Alan Cockshaw

Chairman of Construction Company AMEC
Watson Steel, part of AMEC group, won contract to build the masts and cables on the Millennium Dome.

Chairman of the government’s Commission for New Towns. Chairman of the government agency English Partnerships, which is supposed to help ensure that new developments meet public needs.

On the board of the New Millennium Experience Company, firm set up by government to supervise the millennium celebrations.

Michael Mallinson

Property of industry lobby group for property developers, the British Property Federation.

Deputy Chairman, English Partnerships.

Peter Mason

Group Chief Executive, AMEC plc. In 1997 the company was the seventh largest recipient of support from the government’s Export Credit Guarantee Department for construction work in Hong Kong.

The trade body to which it belonged, The Export Group for the Construction Industries – has lobbied against the inclusion of environmental and human rights conditions in the Export Credit Guarantee Department’s loans.

On the Export Guarantees Advisory Council, which governs the payment of government money by the Export Credit Guarantee Department. Liz Airey, a non-executive director of Amec, is another member.

Professor Sir John Cadogan

Research Director of BP.

Director-General of the Research Councils, which are supposed to fund scientific work that doesn’t have an obvious or immediate application for industry.

Sir Anthony Cleaver

Chairman of the Atomic Energy Authority Technology Plc, which oversaw the organisational changes at Dounreay. These were criticised by the Health and Safety Executive as leaving the company in a poor position to decommission the site. Some researchers believed that Dounreay was the most dangerous nuclear site in Western Europe.

Chairman of the government’s Medical Research Council, which has been repeatedly criticised for failing to provide research funds for investigating the medical effects of radiation. Also member of the government’s panel on sustainable development.

Peter Doyle

Executive director, Zeneca Group Plc. Zeneca’s a major biotechnology firm, and was the foremost developer in Britain of GM crops. The company was engaged in a ten-year deal with the John Innes Centre in Norwich to find profitable applications for biotechnology.

Chairman of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, which gives substantial funding to the John Innes Research Institute. Employees of Zeneca sit on all seven of the BBSRC specialist committees.

Member of the government’s advisory committee on Business and the Environment.

Professor Nigel Poole

External and Regulatory Affairs Manager of Zeneca Plant Science; sits on five of the taskforces set up by EuropaBio, the lobbying organisation seeking to persuade European governments to deregulate GM organisms.

Member of the government’s Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment.

Professor John Hillman

Member of the board of the Bioindustry Association, the lobbying group seeking to ‘enhance the status of the industry within government’.

Director of the government’s Scottish Crop Research Institute, charged with supervising government-funded research projects and providing the government with impartial advice on biotechnology.

Antony Pike

Director General of the British Agrochemicals Association Ltd; Managing director of Schering Agrochemicals/ AgrEvo UK Ltd.

Chairman of the government’s Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA), carrying out and funding research into cereal crops. It has not funded any projects aimed at improving organic cereal production.

Professor P.J. Agett

Head of the School of Medicine and Health, University of Central Lancashire. This has received support for its research from three companies producing baby milk. Agett has personally received fees from two companies producing baby milk, including Nestle. The promotion of baby milk to developing nations is one of the most controversial issues in food and nutrition.

Chair of the Department of Health’s Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA). Three other members of COMA have either directly benefited from payments from the baby milk manufacturers or belong to academic departments which have. One of those, who personally received payments was a Nestle executive.

Professor Peter Schroeder

Nestlé’s director of research and development.

Director of the government’s Institute of Food Research.

Sir Alastair Morton

Chairman of the Channel Tunnel construction consortium, Eurotunnel. This had debts of £9m.

Advised John Prescott on financing of Channel Tunnel Rail Link; Chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority responsible for advising the government on the use of significant amounts to the industry, and ensuring that rail transport gives good value for money.

The Two Faces of IDS: He Laughs in Parliament, But Cries On TV about Plight of Unemployed

April 6, 2016

I know I’m going to be preaching to the converted on this one, but there’s a chance that somebody out there may not know precisely what a slimeball Ian Duncan Smith is. Yesterday, Mike posted up a piece from the Groaniad, which reported that the Gentleman Ranker will appear tomorrow in a programme on Victorian attitudes to poverty. He’s going to be interview by Ian Hislop. Hislop’s done something like three previous documentaries on British history, and the profound changes in cultural attitudes that occurred during the 19th century. In one, he covered public education, from the Victorian period up to the present. The other year he fronted one on reformers, and a third on philanthropists. The last documentary was particularly interesting in that it charted the change in attitude towards the acquisition of wealth. In the 19th century the Christian conscience of a number of tycoons, who had made their money in banking, was disturbed because of Christ’s condemnation of the rich and greedy, who thought nothing of the poor. As a result, some of these 19th century millionaires were extremely generous, giving away the equivalent of millions to charity. And the attitude that wealth was only good if you gave it away was also shared by many of the Jewish entrepreneurs, who rose to prominence in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. Nathan Rothschild, the banker, pioneering Jewish MP, and leader of the stock exchange, was personally immensely generous, despite leading the opposition of the British financial sector to Lloyd George’s reforms which formed the nucleus of the British welfare state.

If the programme is like the others Hislop’s done, then I think it’s going to be very good. Unfortunately, there is already something that’s going to spoil it: he interviews Ian Duncan Smith. Now, I suppose it’s only right that the Gentleman Ranker is on, as he was head of the DWP when the programme was being made several months ago. But it also gives him the opportunity for some first class acting, lying and hypocrisy. During the interview, he breaks down in tears at the plight of the poor, and in particular about the case of a 19-year old single mother, who had given up hope of finding work.

Way back in the 1980s or ’90s, if I recall correctly, there was a terrible old Conservative MP, who when faced with something he considered sentimental or hypocritical from the other side of the House, would say, ‘Hand me the sick bag’.
Well, looking at this prime display of hypocrisy from the master of cheque book genocide, I’m more than feeling a little queasy myself.

Mike’s article describes, yet again, how aIDS has been responsible for having hundreds of thousands of people sanctioned, and their benefits cut. He was responsible, for example, for using the Bedroom Tax to throw a rape victim out of her house, because she had converted her spare bedroom into a panic room, in which she could seek refuge in the case of another attack. Hundreds have died of starvation, neglect, or by their own hands due to his sanctions regime. And nearly a quarter of a million others have had their mental health made worse by the terrible insecurity constant assessment engenders.

And then, to add insult to injury, this jumped-up eugenic murderer had the temerity to laugh about the suffering he’d inflicted in parliament when some of the cases of the hardship he’d caused were read out. Mike includes the description of this disgraceful event from an eyewitness, Jack Monroe, who was understandably and rightly furious.

And now this squalid apology for human being is going to cry publicly on TV tomorrow, to try and salvage his image. He left the cabinet, remember, protesting that he though the sanctions’ regime was unfair. If he felt that way, he certainly didn’t show it. He carried on with it for about six years. One of the reasons why he left was that he felt it was terribly unfair for him to get the blame for sanctions, when it was introduced by Bliar. Well, they were introduced by New Labour, true. But that doesn’t mean that he had to follow them.

There’s another reason his appearance on the box tomorrow in connection with Victorian attitudes to poverty is particularly fitting. He, Osbo and Cameron all share the same attitude to it, going right back to Maggie Thatcher. Tory policy is basically the return of the ‘less eligibility’ attitude to benefit, which means you make it as hard for the unemployed on benefit as possible in order to force them off. Hence all the sanctions and the humiliating rigmarole of interviews, workfare and so on. It’s all part of what Thatcher called ‘Victorian values’. Well, it was one set of values that was rightly discarded when Labour first took power. And it should have been kept that way. Now it’s returned, along with real, grinding poverty in Britain. There are 4.7 million in ‘food poverty’, thanks to Smith and his masters.

Mike’s article is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/05/iain-duncan-smith-wept-crocodile-tears-about-plight-of-single-mother-in-tv-interview/ Go and read it. He also has the picture of Smith and Cameron chuckling away about mass suffering, if you can stomach it.
And unlike Smith’s repulsive crocodile tears, that really is something to make you weep.

Lenin and Engels on the Corrupting Influence of the Banks

March 18, 2014

Osborne Pic

Chancellor George Osborne – the ally of big business and the rich against the poor

Since Margaret Thatcher successive governments in Britain have pursued Neoliberal and Monetarist economic policies, which have seen the rich become immensely richer at the expense of everyone else. Thatcher decimated Britain’s manufacturing industry, and attempted to make the financial sector the dominant force in the British economy. The government thus adopted, under both the Tories and New Labour, a series of policies designed to promote the finance industry, and in particular, the City of London. These had a further effect of damaging Britain’s manufacturing industry still further by making our exports uncompetitive. The current government in particular has very strong connections to the City and its financiers.

Engels observed the corrupting influence of the financial sector on government in both France and America in a passage cited by the German Socialist leader, Karl Kautsky, and then by the Russian Communist leader, Lenin, in his 1918 work on the class nature of the state, The State and Revolution:

In a democratic republic, Engels continues, “wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely”, first, by means of the “direct corruption of officials” (America); Secondly, by means of an “alliance of the government and the Stock Exchange” (France and America).

Cited in Lenin: Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers 1968) 271.

The above passage could describe government policies today, when so much of government policy is formulated to be benefit the banks and the financial sector, so that senior bankers and financiers have been co-opted as government advisors on the regulation and policies for the industry.

In the Great Recession caused by the 1929 Wall Street Crash, the French Communist party had no hesitation in pointing the finger at the bankers they felt were responsible for their country’s economic slump for their own profit, as the poster below shows.

Communist Anti-Bankers pic

While clearly the financial sector is important, we do need government policies that instead once again promote manufacturing, and create properly paid jobs, rather than unemployment, instead of the current Neoliberal, Thatcherite policies that benefit only the very rich at the massive expense of the poor, the sick, disabled and elderly. But this definitely ain’t gonna happen under Osborne. Instead, we’ll see more of the same, and a growing gap between rich and poor and consequent more poverty and despair. The sooner the Tories go, the better.