Posts Tagged ‘Strikes’

Tony Benn on the Security Service’s Hostility to the Labour Movement

February 28, 2020

The revelation last year that Tweezer’s government was funding the Democracy Initiative and its parent organisation, the Institute for Statecraft, revealed that the British secret state was still hostile to the Labour movement and determined to attack and disrupt any political figure standing for radical change. The Initiative was supposed to combat pro-Russian propaganda on the Net, but instead focused on smearing and trying to discredit British and foreign political leaders, of whom it disapproved. One of them was, surprise, surprise!, Jeremy Corbyn. Although supposedly a private company, the Democracy Initiative had extensive links to the British secret state and the cyberwarfare section of the SAS. As the election rolled on, we also saw various army chiefs and spokespeople for the intelligence agencies tell the Tory papers that they regarded Corbyn as a threat to national security.

In fact the British secret services were always suspicious of the Labour Party. They’re part of the establishment, and so regarded the Labour movement as a whole as subversive. There is considerable evidence that MI5 was behind the rumours in the 1970s smearing the Labour premier Harold Wilson as a KGB spy. Lobster has published a series of articles about British intelligence’s campaign of disinformation against Labour, including how the IRD – a now defunct intelligence department – published fake documents and news during the 1970s to smear Labour politicos like Tony Benn as IRA sympathisers and Communists.

Benn was very much aware of this, and discusses it and the establishment’s general animosity towards the Labour movement in many of his books, including the volume: Tony Benn: Arguments for Democracy, edited by Chris Mullin. Benn wrote

The security services, or at least an element within them, regard those who work within the Labour movement, especially its socialist activists, as being a security risk for that reason alone. Conservatives would not be so classified.

This interpretation of a security risk has never been publicly discussed by ministers, although, if it is as widespread as I believe it to be, it raises major issues of public policy and civil liberties. For it means that the security services, far from being limited in their work to the discovery of direct external and internal threats to our democracy, are also active indirectly as the upholders of the status quo in our society and are treating socialists who wish to change that status quo by democratic means as potential enemies of that democracy.

In the long run this is the biggest threat to political freedom from the state. In the short run it is used to justify a degree of surveillance of certain organisations and individuals in Britain which goes far beyond what is publicly admitted.

The methods used include the widespread interception of communications, the extensive tapping of telephones, and the maintenance of a bar upon employment for people in both government and sensitive industrial work against whom no conceivable charge of treason or subversion would stand up for one moment in any court of law, nor would it command public support if it had to be justified publicly. Hence the secrecy.

The trade unions are of course a special target for surveillance by the security services. The evidence recently published by the Post Office Engineering Union must be taken seriously in this context. There is no room for doubt that active trade unionists do have their telephone calls regularly intercepted,. and this surveillance is redoubled during industrial disputes, as in the miners’ strikes in 1972 and 1974. I was present on one social occasion when a former Labour prime minister indicated this quite clearly.

Twide, as a minister, I was told categorically that the candidates I had proposed for major public appointments were not acceptable on security grounds. The two men concerned were senior members of the General Council of the TUC, active in the Labour Party, and each was then playing a key role in supporting the policies of the then Labour Government. In each case it took a letter from me to the prime minister personally, and in one case a request for a meeting with him, to discuss the matter, to have these objections overruled. Had I not done so, the men would have remained disqualified from public service on security grounds.

Ministers who have direct responsibility for the work of the security services, if asked about the way they exercise their responsibilities, always insist that their control is direct, personal and complete. I very much doubt whether this is the case. If it is so, the Labour ministers must have authorised the incidents of which I have personal knowledge, and this they certainly should not have done. But in my view it is much more likely that the security services do not inform the ministers of what is going on, or cover up their activities in phrases designed to secure acquiescence. (pp. 75-6).

He adds further details to this description of the activities of the British secret state in note 5 to that chapter, ‘Civil Liberties and the Security Services’ on pp. 241-2. This states

According to Mr Chapman Pincher in his book Inside Story, Sidgwick and Jackson 1978, MI5 have files on more than two million people and our security services apparently believe that 59 Labour MPs in the 1974-9 Parliament had ‘current or recent connections with Communist, Trotskyite and other Marxist organisations’. The Special Branch also appear to take a close interest in politics and trade union affairs. For example, during an occupation to prevent closure of a British Steel subsidiary in Greenwich, workers came across Special Branch reports on two of their colleagues. For details of this and other cases see Crispin Aubrey, Who’s Watching You, Pelican, 1981, pp. 36-7.

Benn produced a list of his own suggestions for combating the threat to British democracy from the security services, the civil service establishment and new technology. These were

  1. An analysis of the dangers to the security of the state, external and internal.
  2. A study of the technology now available and the use to which it is being put by other comparable countries.
  3. To consider the case for publishing every year all information that could be published without endangering security, including: i, The budget and staffing of the security services. ii. The names of those in charge of them, as in the USA. iii The guidelines issued to those services relating to their objectives and methods. iv The numbers of dossiers in existence relating to political activities. v A report on the reasons for collecting these dossiers and an account of what happens to the information acquired for inclusion in them. vi An annual report on the total number of interceptions of communications by telephone or mail. vii The full list of foreign security services with which UK security services have arrangements for reciprocal exchange of information, or with which they work.
  4. To argue the case for a special House of Commons select committee, meeting, when necessary, in secret, composed exclusively of privy councillors empowered to question both the responsible ministers and security chiefs on the whole range of their policy and activities – to report annually to Parliament in a form which can be published.
  5. To press for an appeals procedure for citizens reporting to the select committee on matters concerning their own records only.
  6. To have the same rights to information for citizens about records and files kept on them as are enjoyed by US citizens under contemporary US legislation.
  7. To secure the introduction of a ‘Security Services Annual Act’ under which, as with the Army and the Airforce Acts of earlier years, Parliament gains the ultimate control of the security services. (p. 89).

These are all excellent suggestions, but there is absolutely no chance that they’ll ever get passed in the foreseeable future. Boris has an overwhelming majority, which means that he will have no trouble blocking any attempt to reel in the security services. There would also be strong opposition from the Blairites in the Labour Party. When Blair got into power, he and his cabinet were not at all interested in making the security services more accountable. This was so even when MI5 had kept many of them under surveillance as potential subversives. It is symptomatic of this attitude that although Jack Straw was offered the chance of looking at his MI5 file, he didn’t.

And so unfortunately the security services will continue to work against Labour activists, viewing them as subversives, even when they are no such thing.

‘I’ Newspaper: Rebecca Long-Bailey Promises to Support Unions and End Exploitative Work Practices

February 11, 2020

This is another excellent piece from Saturday’s I, for 8th February 2020. Written by Richard Vaughan, ‘Long-Bailey to promise no out-of-hours phone calls’ shows that the contender for the Labour leadership intends to restore the power of the trade unions and back them in industrial disputes, as well as removing work practices that damages workers’ mental health. It begins with her pledge to end the demand that workers should be on call 24 hours a day.

Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey will pledge to give workers the right to switch off their phones outside of office hours to help end “24/7 work cultures”.

The shadow Business Secretary committed yesterday to give employees a “right to disconnect” based on the French system, which forces companies with more than 50 staff to allow them to ignore their mobiles during leisure time.

In a further attempt to show her support for workers, Ms Long-Bailey said she would back the right of employees to hold strike action “no questions asked” should she succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Addressing a rally in Sheffield last night, she said the next Labour leader must be “as comfortable on the picket line as at the dispatch box.”

“As leader, I’ll put trade unions at the heart of Labour’s path to power, and back workers in every dispute,” she said.

She added that under her stewardship Labour would “back workers in every dispute and strike against unfair, exploitative and unjust employers”.

She said: “Standing on the side of workers and trade unions, no questions asked, is going to be crucial in standing up to this reactionary Conservative Government.”

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Ms Long-Bailey said she wanted to remove working practices that were damaging to mental health. “We can all do better with aspirational socialism, through pushing for an end to 24/7 work culture, and with trade unions empowered to negotiate this, we can work hard, be paid for the work we do and keep that precious time with our friends and family, uninterrupted by emails or demands”.

This is precisely the type of leadership working people need. The Tories and New Labour have done their level best to gut the power of the unions, and the result has been the massive increase in in-work poverty. Without strong trade unions, workers have been left stuck with stagnant wages, exploitative working conditions like zero-hours contracts which bar them from receiving sick pay, paid holidays or maternity leave and a culture that allows work place bullying and casual sacking. Blair and Brown were as keen on destroying union power as the Tories, and in denying workers protection against redundancy and short-term contracts, all in the name of workforce ‘flexibility’. Despite his candidacy for the party being backed by one of the unions, when Blair gained the leadership he even threatened to cut the party’s ties to them, a tie that is integral to the Labour Party, if they didn’t back his reforms and programme.

Long-bailey promises to reverse this, restore union power and so empower ordinary working people. Which means that the Tories and their lackeys in the press and media will do everything they can to discredit her. You can expect them to start running stories about the how the ‘strike-hit’ seventies made Britain ‘the sick man of Europe’ until Maggie Thatcher appeared to curb the union barons and restore British productivity and confidence. It’s all rubbish, but it’s the myth that has sustained and kept the Tories and their wretched neoliberalism in power for forty years.

But this is being challenged, and Long-Bailey is showing that she is the woman to end it.

Manifesto for a Truly Democratic, Socialist America

January 23, 2020

Bhaskar Sunkara, The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality (London: Verso 2019).

Introduction

This is a superb book, though conditions have changed since the book was published last year through Labour’s election defeat and the fall of Corbyn, that the new age of socialist activism and success Sunkara looks forward to is now far more doubtful. Sunkara is an American radical journalist, and the founder and editor of the left-wing magazine, Jacobin. Originally from Trinidade, he immigrated to the USA with his family when he was young. Growing up in New York, he read extensively in the Big Apple’s public library, where he came to realise the country’s dependence on services provided by the state. He immersed himself in the history and literature of socialism, finally joining the Democratic Socialists of America. He is also a registered Democrat.

The book comes praised by Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, Naomi Klein and Owen Jones. The book was partly inspired by the success of Jeremy Corbyn over here and Bernie Sanders in America in bringing socialism back into the political arena after decades of neoliberalism. This is made clear by the blurb on the dust jacket’s inside flap. This states

Socialism was pronounced dead when the Soviet Union collapsed. But with the success of Jeremy Corbyn’s left-led Labour party and increasing economic inequality, the politics of class struggle and wealth redistribution is back on the agenda. In The Socialist Manifesto Bhaskar Sunkara offers a primer on socialism for the twenty-first century, outlining where it came from, what it is, and what a socialist political system might look like.

Tracing the history of some of socialism’s highs and lows – from the creation of Germany’s Social Democratic Party through bloody communist revolutions to the predicaments of midcentury social democracy – Sunkara contends that, in our global age, socialism is still the only way forward. Drawing on history and his own experience in left-wing activism, Sunkara explains how socialists can win better wages and housing and create democratic institutions in workplaces and communities.

In showing how and why socialism can work today, The Socialist Manifesto is for anyone seeking a real solution to the vast inequalities of our age.

The Way to Socialism in America

The book begins with a ‘Day in the Life of a Socialist Citizen’, which maps out one possible path for the transformation of America into a socialist state. Sunkara asks the reader to imagine himself as a worker at Jon Bongiovi’s pasta sauce business in Texas to show that, even under a benign and paternalistic employer, the capitalist system still leaves the workers poor and powerless. In order to compete, the firm must not only make a profit, but invest in machinery while at the same time either cutting wages or laying people off. However, the workers are empowered by a new wave of strikes and left-wing activism that sees the election of President Springsteen. Springsteen establishes a welfare state, which allows the workers to devote more of their time and energy to pressing for their demands without having to fear for their livelihood. The worker’s movement continues making gains until the economy has become nationalised. Individual firms still exist, and are run by the workers themselves rather than the state. Some of them fail. But there are also government banking schemes to help workers set up their own businesses, though still state-owned and collectively managed, when they have a good idea and are fed up with their present job. Like bottling pasta sauce. America is still a vibrant democracy, and there are a number of other parties, including a capitalist party, though that is waning in popularity. It’s not utopia, but it is a system where workers are genuinely valued.

The Rise and Transformation of Socialism from Marxism to Reformism

The socialism, whose history the book tells and advocates, is that the Marxist and Marxist derived parties, Communism and social democracy, rather than the Utopian socialism of the generation before Marx and the more extreme versions of anarchist communism and syndicalism. The book naturally describes the career of Marx and Engels, and the formation of the German SDP. This moved away from revolutionary Marxism to reformism under the influences of Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky, who believed that capitalism’s survival and the growing prosperity of industrial workers had disproven crucial aspects of Marxist doctrine. Initially pacifist, like the other European socialist parties, the SDP voted for war credits at the outbreak of the First World War. This caused a split, with a minority forming the Independent Socialists (USPD) and the Communist Party. When the 1919 revolution broke out, the majority SDP under President Ebert moved to crush it using right-wing Freikorps brigades. Although the SDP was one prop of the Weimar coalition, it was never able to establish socialism in Germany, and so fell with the other parties in the collapse of the Republic to the Nazis.

Russian Communism

Sunkara’s account of the rise of Russian communism is interesting for his argument that the Bolsheviks originally weren’t any more dictatorial than their rivals, the Mensheviks. Even Kautsky recognised the need for a strong, centralised party. But Lenin originally was no dictator. Pravda rejected 44 of his articles, and the were other voices as strong or stronger within the party. What pushed it towards first authoritarianism and then totalitarianism was the stubborn opposition of the rival socialist parties, the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries. They were invited to join a government coalition with the Bolsheviks, but walked out and began active opposition. The Revolution was then threatened by the revolt of the Whites, leading to the Civil War, in which Britain and other western countries sent troops in order to overthrow the Bolshevik regime. This, and the chaotic conditions created by the Revolution itself led to the Bolshevik party assuming a monopoly of state power, partly as the only means available of restoring order. This began the party’s journey towards the murderously repressive state it became, though interparty democracy was still alive in the 1920s before the rise of Stalin.

Mao and China

The emergence of communism in China, its seizure of power and the reign of Chairman Mao is also covered as an example of socialism in the Third World. The nations of the Developing World, like China, took over revolutionary socialism – communism – rather than reformism, because conditions in Russia more closely resembled those in their nations. Russian had been a largely agricultural country, in which the majority of its citizens were peasants. Industrial workers’ similarly represented only a minuscule fraction of the Chinese population, and so Mao turned to the peasants instead as a revolutionary force. This chapter concludes that Chinese communism was less about empowering and liberating the workers than as a movement for national modernisation.

Sweden and the Rise and Fall of Social Democracy

The book also examines the rise and progress of Swedish social democracy. The Swedish socialist party took power early through alliances with the Agrarians and the Liberals. This allowed them to introduce generous welfare legislation and transform the country from one of the most socially backward, feudal and patriarchal states in Europe to the progressive nation it is today. But there were also losses as well as gains. The Swedes compromised their commitment to all-out socialism by preserving private industry – only 5 per cent of the Swedish economy was nationalised – and acting to regulate the economy in alliance with the trade unions and industrialists. This corporative system collapsed during the oil crisis of the 1970s. This caused inflation. The government tried to resist wage rises, which the unions resisted. The industrialists resented the growth of working class activism and began measures to counteract them. Olof Palme, the country’s prime minister, then moved in a left-ward direction through establishing funds that would allow the trade unions gradually to buy up companies. The industrialists recognised an existential threat, and succeeded in overthrowing the government.

The Swedish model, meanwhile, had been highly influential through Labour party MP Anthony Crosland’s The Future of Socialism, which in turn led to Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’ as the Labour government in Britain moved from social democracy to a more left-wing alternative to neoliberalism. Other European socialist parties followed, such as the German SDP. France’s President Mitterand in the 1980s tried to break this pattern in the 1980s, but his government was also overthrown through capital flight, the industrialists taking their money out of the French economy. Mitterand tried to hang on by promising to safeguard industry and govern responsibly, but it was no use.

Socialism and America

The chapter on socialism in America is particularly interesting, as it shows, contrary to the impression given by America’s two-party system, that the country has a very strong history and tradition of working class parties and socialism, from combative unions like the IWW to organised parties like the Knights of Labor, Democratic Socialists of America, and the Socialist Labor, Populist, Progressive and Communist Parties. However, socialism has never gained power there, as it has in Britain and Europe, because of a variety of factors. These include the extreme violence of the state and private industry, the latter hiring gunmen, to put down strikes; factional infighting between socialist groups, partly caused by the extreme range of socialist opinions and the restriction of some socialist groups to particular ethnicities, and the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War.

A strategy for Success

Thechapter ‘How We Win’ contains Sunakara’s own observations and recommendations for socialist campaigning and the construction of genuine socialism in America. These are

1. Class-struggle social democracy does not close down avenues for radicals; it opens them.

2. Class-struggle social democracy has the potential to win a major national election today.

3. Winning an election isn’t the same as winning power.

4. They’ll do everything to stop us.

5. Our immediate demands are very much achievable.

6. We must move quickly from social democracy to democratic socialism.

7. We need socialists.

8. The working class had changed over the past hundred and fifty years, but not as much we think.

9. Socialists must embed themselves in working class struggles.

10. It is not enough to work with unions for progressive change. We must wage democratic battles within them.

11. A loose network of leftists and rank-and-file activists isn’t enough. We need a political party.

12. We need to take into account American particularities.

13. We need to democratise our political institutions.

14. Our politics must be universalist.

15. History matters.

Conclusion

This is the clarion call for genuinely radical activism. It will almost certainly start right-wing alarm bells ringing, as Sunkara calls for left-wing activists to join main parties like the Democrats in the US and Labour in Britain. They are not to be infiltrators, but as people genuinely committed to these parties and working peoples’ causes and issues. The claims that the working class has somehow died out or no longer has radical potential is overstated. It has changed, but 60 per cent of the population are still employees drawing wages or a salary, and who have no money of their own. And the book shows very clearly that the transformation to a genuinely socialist economy is needed. Social democracy has won considerable gains for working people, gains that still persist despite constant right-wing attack. But these aren’t enough, and if left unchallenged, capital will always try to destroy them.

The book’s angled towards the US, but its lessons and many of its recommendations still apply of this side of the pond. The resurgence of genuine socialist activism in Britain is now far less certain in Britain. But hopefully this book will help show to more people why it’s still possible and needed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voter ID and Other Tricks to Stop the Radical Poor from Voting

January 20, 2020

Mike reported a little while ago that the Tories were going ahead with their plans to demand photographic identification of voters at polling stations before allowing people to cast their votes. This is supposedly to cut down on voting fraud, despite the fact that actual instances are so low they’re negligible. Of course, the people who will find it most difficult to produce such identification will be students and the poor. Which is why the Tories are introducing it.

It’s another trick they’ve learned from the American Republicans, who introduced similar legislation over there. It prevents the poor, students and Blacks – the demographics mostly likely to vote Democrat – from being able to vote. And such tricks to stop working class radicals and Blacks from voting have a long history in America. All the way back to the Populist movement in the 1890s. This was a left-wing movement of America’s rural poor against exploitation by the great landlords. Bhaskar Sankara gives a brief description of it, and its fall, in his book The Socialist Manifesto. He writes

But ferment was growing in rural America. The Populist Movement sprang from the 1870s struggles of indebted farmers in central Texas but soon spread throughout the country. As the price of cotton collapsed and the economy entered a depression in the 1890s, the Populists fervently supported Debs during the Pullman Strike, backed many demands made by labor, and were leading tenant and sharecropper efforts against the crop-lien system. Populist leader Tom Watson challenged white and black farmers to organise across racial lines, telling a crowd, “You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system that beggars both.”

In 1892, the movement formed a national political party around a progressive platform that called for a graduated income tax, nationalised railways, debt relief, and public works to combat unemployment. Planter elites responded with a campaign of electoral fraud and violence, including the lynching of hundreds of organisers, while the Democratic Party came to co-opt much of the movement’s platform in 1896. After the pro-Populist Democrat William Jennings Bryant’s election loss that year, the movement fell apart. Legislative efforts to disenfranchise blacks through poll taxes and biased “literacy tests” were expanded, helping prevent another multi-racial movement from emerging for decades. (pp. 163-4).

That’s the tactics of the Right. Keep whites and blacks attacking each other, so that they don’t unite against the system that’s oppressing both, and bring in laws to disqualify Blacks and the White poor from voting. The Tories also do both. But they haven’t yet started lynching members of the Labour party. So far, that’s been left to the far right. Thomas Mair and his assassination of Labour MP Jo Cox. Then there are the crazed Brexiteers who screamed at Anna Soubry that she was a traitor, and who took a model gibbet to their protests outside parliament, and the Nazi, homophobic thugs who beat up Owen Jones.

Perhaps after the Tories have introduced voter ID and similar legislation, they’ll bring back lynching as well. They’ve encouraged people to beat up the disabled already.

The History Book on the TUC from Its Beginnings to 1968

December 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cameron Blames Lansley and Lib Dems for His Act Promoting Privatisation of NHS

October 3, 2019

This fortnight’s issue of Private Eye also has a few choice things to say about David Cameron’s new book, For the Record. This seems to be largely his attempt to justify his wretched tenure of 10 Downing Street and the havoc he caused. The book’s reviewed, and comprehensively and thoroughly trashed, in their ‘Literary Review’ column on page 34 in a piece titled ‘Shed tears’. It’s a long review, which can be summed up by saying that Cameron keeps trying to claim that his government left Britain stronger, more stable, and more prosperous. To which the Eye’s answer – and just about everyone else’s – is Brexit, and a few telling details refuting the Old Eton’s bogus claims.

The magazine’s ‘Medicine Balls’ column also attacks some of Cameron’s claims. It begins by refuting BoJob’s claim that he’ll build 40 new hospitals, before going on to tackle Cameron’s little stories. Including the former PM’s claim that he wasn’t really responsible for the Health and Social Care Act of 2012. This is a nasty little piece of legislation which, behind its convoluted verbiage and tortuous clauses, exempts the Health Secretary from having to provide Brits with universal healthcare which is free at the point of service. It’s a piece preparing for the wholesale privatisation of the NHS, and is duly attacked as such in the book NHS – SOS. As Prime Minister, Cameron is responsible for the Act. Except he claims it’s all the fault of his Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, and the Lib Dems. The Eye writes

Then there is the small matter of repairing the disastrous Health and Social Care Act, a Trojan horse for outsourcing NHS services to the private sector via an astonishingly wasteful process of repetitive, competitive tendering. David Cameron, in his autobiography, places the blame for the act on his health secretary Andrew Lansley, the Lib Dem coalition partners and the British Medical Association (BMA): “Andrew Lansley … was too submerged in the detail. The jargon he’d use was baffling. I remember sitting in cabinet when he shared his reform white paper. it was like an artist unveiling a piece he’d spent years on, and everyone wondering what on earth it was.” So why did he allow such chaos to progress?

It was the Lib Dems fault, claims Cameron, that he was forced to abandon his pre-election pledge of “no top-down” reorganisation” of the NHS, because they insisted that primary care trusts should be abolished rather than left “wither on the vine”. Then there is the BMA, which Cameron declares “will oppose anything, whether it is a good idea or not.”

(Eye page 17).

From this it’s clear that there was little ideological difference between Cameron and the Lib Dems. Both wanted the primary care trusts to go. It was simply a difference of the means.Cameron wanted them to decay quietly, the Lib Dems wanted abolition.

The column also attacks Comedy Dave’s pledge to support the NHS:

But he also promised to “always support the NHS with the funding it needs”, which he manifestly failed to do. And the promises in his 2015 manifesto – “to make the NHS the safest and most compassionate health service in the world” – were always phoney given the lack of resource, capacity and staff.

The article does admit that Cameron did some things right, such as highlighting the dangers of anti-microbial resistance, but attacks his role in provoking the junior doctor’s strike by demanding they work weekends, based on flawed, decades-old statistics.

From this it’s very clear that, whatever he says about Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act, Cameron was in favour of the privatisation of the NHS. No surprise there, then. He’s a Thatcherite, and Maggie Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS. She couldn’t, because her Personal Private Secretary, Patrick Jenkin, found out how awful the American, insurance-based system was, and there was a massive cabinet rebellion. But she was determined to open it up to private industry. This was taken over by Peter Lilley and John Major, who introduce the Private Finance Initiative, and then by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who expanded it in their turn. It was then taken up, once again, by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Tweezer. And I’ve no doubt Johnson also wants to privatise it, after he gets through ruining the country with his assaults on the sovereignty of parliament and a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

And the Lib Dems share the Tories’ determination to destroy the NHS. At the last election, Nick Clegg stated that he wanted to open the NHS up to private industry, as those countries, whose healthcare had a mixture of state and private provision had ‘better outcomes’. It’s a flat-out lie, or it was until he and the Tories started their disastrous campaign of trashing the NHS. And Swinson shares his goal of privatising it. She consistently voted for the government’s bills, and supported them far more than some front bench Conservatives.

Despite this, she claims that she and her party are ‘progressive’, solely because it ostensibly supports ‘Remain’. But this is sheer opportunism. When it came to the referendum, she issued a single, lukewarm tweet and was nowhere to be seen, while the Labour leader she reviles was travelling up and down the country. As for her party, the proportion of Lib Dems who support ‘Remain’ is only two per cent higher than that of the Labour party. Her whole pro-Remain stance is a lie, as is just about everything she says.

Don’t be fooled. Both the Tories and Lib Dems want to privatise the NHS. The only person who doesn’t, and will block it, is Jeremy Corbyn.

 

Private Eye: Government Plan to Draft Army as Local Government Officials in Event Brexit Crisis

September 6, 2019

There’s a very worrying story right at the beginning of this fortnight’s Private Eye. It’s page 7, where the actual text of the magazine starts right after the first few pages of advertising. Titled ‘Privates on Parade’, it reveals that Project Yellowhammer, the secret government plan for dealing with mass shortages caused by Brexit, also includes provisions for drafting the army in as local government officials. The reason they’ll be needed there is because there aren’t enough civil servants in the national administration to deal with the crisis, and if it happens, they’re going to have to draft in local government officials. The article runs

The government has spent the past fortnight trying to play down the leaked Operation Yellowhammer document about preparations for a “no deal” Brexit. Ministers initially pretended it was an old plan; when it emerged that the document was dated August 2019, they claimed preparations had alread moved on since then.

But the ramifications of the plans are extraordinary. To fill the thousands of extra civil service posts required the government has arranged for a rather unorthodox shuffle: if/when a “no deal” Brexit happens, thousands of local government officials are to be reallocated to Whitehall departments to fortify Sir Humphrey.

Who will run town and county halls in their absence? This is where matters become surreal. The army – including territorial volunteers – are being issued with instructions to take over local government posts, in a civilian capacity, in the event of “no deal”.

One officer, who admitted he was uncomfortable at the optics of all this, observed to the Eye that this involved putting soldiers in charge even when they lacked basic literacy and numeracy. Quite how they would get on in calculating council tax, or providing adult social care and children’s services, remains to be seen…

There are several remarks to be made about all this. The first is that it shows how stupid and destructive successive Conservative administrations have been in their determination to slim down the civil service. This has now reached the point where there are too few of them to run the country effectively in the event of a national crisis, like a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

The second is the massive implications this has for democracy in this country. I would imagine that one reason the unnamed officer felt uncomfortable about the ‘optics’ of the army moving into local government is that it looks very much like the beginnings of a military coup. And events don’t have to go much further before it really would amount to a military take-over of civilian government. I think that Operation Yellowhammer also provides for emergency legislation to deal with possible civil unrest in the event of shortages of food, medicines and other essential services. After a wave of rioting up and down the country the government could declare a state of emergency, draft in the army and put in force martial law.

Given Boris’ personal authoritarianism, as shown in his prorogation of parliament, I can imagine that he may even wish to dispense with parliamentary supervision in such an emergency. With the very loud support of the Tory press, he dissolves parliament again, which will only be recalled in after the restoration of order. And it probably isn’t so far-fetched to see some of the Tory right and British press demanding the arrest of left-wing subversives. If the unions call a strike, I imagine they’d be delighted. They could go back to Maggie’s tactic of posing as the nation’s champion against the bullying of the union barons. Further legislation would be passed or invoked to break up the strikes, ban trade unions and arrest trade unionists. At the same time, allegations of Communist connections and sympathies would be used to justify the arrest and detention of left-wing activists and trade unionists as threats to national security. This might be going too far, but I could also imagine the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the right-wing Zionists of organisations like Herut handing over lists of names of ‘the wrong sort of Jews’ in order to make sure Jewish critics of Israel and Conservatism were also arrested and detained. Because after all, they’re a threat to Israel, one of the West’s major outposts in the Middle East.

I’m not saying this will happen, only that it could. Back in 1975 the Conservative party and parts of the press, including the Times and the Mirror, were also pressing for a coup to overthrow Harold Wilson’s Labour government. Because industrial unrest had got out of hand, and he was supposed to be a KGB spy. See Francis Wheen’s book on paranoia in the ’70s, Strange Days Indeed. It’s also described in Ken Livingstone’s 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, in which the-then mayor of London discusses how there were plans to round up left-wing activists, MPs and journalists, and have them sent to concentration camps on one of the Scottish islands.

The plan to draft soldiers in to local government also reminds me of the very strong position of the armed forces in the economies in many developing countries. In Pakistan, for example, the army also runs businesses, like cement factories. I’ve heard that the same is true of Egypt. The military is deeply entwined with large sectors of industry. Now Johnson and co.’s plan only involves drafting the military in to deal with a shortage of civil servants. But Zelo Street posted a piece recently showing that the government was also considering buying up the surplus food produced by our farmers if they could not export to the continent, and asked whether they would also provide financial support to the British car industry, another part of the economy that’s under threat. If the government decides that they, too, will have to be given over to army management or staffing, then Johnson and the Tories will really have turned this country into a third world nation. He’ll have a created a real military dictatorship, like those that have afflicted Pakistan and other nations. And they will be cheered on in this destruction by the right-wing press, like the Times, the Mail and the Scum. Lurking behind this threat of a coup, is the danger of a return of real Nazism from Social Darwinists like Toby Young and Dominic Cummings, who fear that giving education and welfare support to the poor and disabled is a threat to our racial stock and the proper running of our society by the upper classes. You can see them demanding legislation once again to sterilise the disabled and those on benefits.

The Tories and the right-wing media, including the Beeb, are now a real threat to democracy, whatever Boris and the Polecat now say about holding elections. We have to get them out, even if that means that Corbyn and the rest of the opposition have to bide their time for the moment. The future of our country and its people really is at stake.

 

 

Satirical Song: Jeremy Hunt Does a Version of Eminem’s ‘My Name Is’

July 12, 2019

This is another satirical piece by JOE, whose videos are like those of Cassetteboi. Like them, he edits snippets of his subjects’ appearances on TV, and arranges them so that they appear to be saying something monumentally stupid, deeply satirical and very, very funny.

In this piece, he has Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary and now Foreign Secretary singing a version of the above track by Eminem, which reveals precisely what’s he like. It begins with him singing ‘My name is’, interrupted by Boris singing, ‘Who,’ and ‘what’, before going on to ask kids if they like Brexit and are worrying about their grandchildren. And export marmalade to Japan like him, f**k things up, but come up smelling of roses. He then goes on to explain that he’s the secretary of state, who’s campaign’s dead weight, ’cause he can’t work out, which said to advocate. Theresa May has also told him he’s a remainer, asked him what he’s afraid of, and told him he’s worse than Labour. Since 2016, he’s changed his mind, like on homeopathy and whether the NHS should be privatised. When he was health secretary he ripped the junior doctors off by working them so hard that they went go on strike. He’s a bloke from the ruling class, who can afford to fall on his rear end, receive dividends in property, to avoid paying tax. At this point Johnson interrupts, telling him that’s his job. Hunt continues by saying that God sent him to p*** the world off. The video ends with him singing ‘Hi, my name is’, followed by Johnson singing ‘what?’, ‘Who?’ and others say ‘Jeremy Hunt’. Or a four letter obscenity that rhymes with his surname, just like the do throughout the video.

All of which precisely sums up Hunt’s career in government.

 

 

Zelo Street: LBC’s James O’Brien Turns Tables on Tories over Racism and Anti-Semitism

March 7, 2019

Yesterday the good fellow at the Crewe-based Zelo Street blog put up a post discussing how LBC radio’s James O’Brien had attacked the Tories for their hypocrisy in criticising the Labour Party. for supposed anti-Semitism, while all the time allowing venomous racism to flourish in their own. This came after the blogger Racists4ReesMogg revealed a long series of tweets from internet groups set up to promote Boris Johnson and Rees Mogg as leaders of the Tory party.

The tweets were truly vile. The members of these groups discussed burning Qu’rans, throwing Muslims off bridges, bombing and closing down mosques, sterilising immigrants and the poor, debarring Muslism, and particularly Sajid Javid and Sadiq Khan from positions of government, ’cause their Muslims, along with ethnic cleansing  of such ferocity that the ‘SS Einsatzgruppen would look like a Boy Scout’s picnic’. There were racist attacks on Diane Abbott and Sayeed Warsi, along with speculation that a civil war was coming and they should all get guns and licences. And almost inevitably there were the weird conspiracy theories about the Jews. Some of them seem to believe in all that nonsense about the ‘Kalergi’ plan, a secret Jewish conspiracy to import Africans and Muslims into Europe to destroy the White race.

As a result, Tory deputy chairman James Cleverly suspended 14 members, boasting on politics live that his party takes action, unlike Labour in its handling of the anti-Semitism crisis. But Zelo Street speculates that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and that Racists4ReesMogg seems to be finding more all the time.

And then James O’Brien sharply contrasted the Tory tolerance, and even encouragement of frothing racism and islamophobia, with their sharp intolerance of supposed instances of anti-Semitism. Zelo Street quoted him as saying

“Imagine if the New Statesman published an article by Owen Jones stating baldly that there is not enough anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. What would happen? Imagine if Diane Abbott or John McDonnell came forward with comments about Jewish women being like letterboxes, or made a joke about the wigs that orthodox Jewish women wear. Made a joke that invited people to mock and condemn them”.

Imagine if John McDonnell made a joke about … the locks that Orthodox Jewish men grow, or the Yarmulkes that many, many Jewish men choose to wear. Imagine if, for example, John McDonnell said ‘Why do all these Jews walk around with frisbees on their heads?’ Explain to me how that would be substantially any different from what Boris Johnson said about Muslim womens’ sartorial choices”.

The ones that make them look like letterboxes. D’you see what I mean? That’s not even controversial, that comparison. Just imagine Owen Jones wrote an article on there not being enough anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and then how the hell Rod Liddle gets to write an article arguing that there’s not enough Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. And he’ll still get invited on to programmes and into studios, and Andrew Neil can still claim when he’s covering these issues that he’s impartial”.

And Fraser Nelson can host an event at the London Palladium with Jacob Rees-Mogg, whose fans are so vile that 14 of them have been suspended from the very party. Now just swap all of those phrases. Swap Islamophobia for anti-Semitism. Swap Rod Liddle for Owen Jones, swap Fraser Nelson for Jason Cowley … and swap Jacob Rees-Mogg or Boris Johnson for John McDonnell or Tom Watson. And you tell me that we don’t live in a country that is utterly upside down”.

Zelo Street states that the Tories have got away with it for so long because the press has been actively complicit in promoting such venomous bigotry. Like the Scum, which started off whipping up hatred against the Irish, then it was Blacks, and now it’s ‘Scary Muslims’. This press is only now stopping to think about what they’re doing. But it’s too late for the Tories, as the lid is being taken off this ugly can of worms. The Tories have every reasons to try to misdirect people to the anti-Semitism allegations against Labour. Because when this stops, people will turn and see where the real racism is. And it will not end well for the Tories.

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/03/tory-islamophobia-action-not-enough.html

There always has been a section of the Tory party whose members and views have overlapped with the real, horrific Fascists of the NF and BNP. Like Paul Staines, AKA Guido Fawkes and the Libertarians links to Latin American death squads and apartheid South Africa. But the rantings of Rees Mogg’s and Boris Johnson’s supporters reminded me in particular of the weird, paranoid conspiracist views of the Nazi ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg. Almost by definition all the Nazis were paranoid conspiracy theorists, as the whole party was based on the assumption that Jews control capitalism and communism and were working to destroy the Aryan race as a whole and specifically Germany. But in the case of Rosenberg the paranoia was particularly acute. Rosenberg was bitterly anti-Christian, and his book The Myth of the Twentieth Century was suppressed by Hitler because it was an embarrassment at the time the Fuhrer was trying to gain the support of Christian Germany. Apart from Jews, Rosenberg was also paranoid about Freemasons, Communists and nearly everybody else. At one point he was convinced that there was a secret Roman Catholic plot to seize control of Germany and install the old Catholic princes. In a party of murderous paranoid nutters, he was one of the most paranoid and nuttiest. But looking at the paranoia and frothing, venomous racism of Johnson’s and Rees Mogg’s supporters, he’d have fitted in very well there.

These people are genuinely frightening. During the mid-70s there was a plot by the editors  of the Times and Mirror, as well as the British intelligent agencies, to overthrow the minority Labour government. Left-wing MPs, trade unionists, activists and journos would be rounded up and interned, possibly on one of the Scottish islands. It never got off the ground, as leading members of the civil service and the staff at Sandhurst weren’t interested and told the plotters where to go.

But it shows how fragile British democracy really is. This was during the mid-70s, when the country was experiencing inflation, strikes and the energy crisis. Thanks to Thatcher, the unions have been smashed and inflation kept low, which is why there is so much poverty. But May’s botched and incompetent Brexit threatens to make the problem much, much worse. And as the case of Nazi Germany shows, in times of severe economic and political crisis, people look for scapegoats. We could see a massive expansion of bitter, murderous racism in this country too, accompanied demands for the full instruments of Fascist repression – internment, mass arrest, and death camps if people like the denizens of these sites and the threat they pose are not taken seriously.

YouTube Video for Book ‘For A Worker’s Chamber’

February 22, 2019

This is the video I’ve just put up on YouTube for another of the books I’ve self-published with Lulu, For A Worker’s Chamber. This argues that parliament is dominated by the rich at the expense of working people, and so we need a special parliamentary chamber to represent working people, composed of working people themselves.

Here’s the blurb I’ve put up on YouTube.

This is another book I published with Lulu. It was a written as a challenge to the domination of parliament by the rich. 75 per cent of MPs, according to a recent book, are millionaires, including company directors. As a result, parliament under Tony Blair, David Cameron and now Theresa May has passed legislation favouring the rich and big business.

The result has been the destruction of the welfare state, privatization, and increasing misery, poverty, starvation and homelessness.

The book instead argues that we need a chamber for working people, elected by working people, represented according to their professions, in order to give ordinary people a proper voice in parliament. The Labour party was originally founded in order to represent working people through the trade unions. The Chartists in the 19th century also looked forward to a parliament of tradespeople.

Later the idea became part of the totalitarianism of Fascist Italy, a development that has ominous implications for attempts to introduce such a chamber in democratic politics. But trade unions were also involved in determining economic policy in democratic post-war Europe. And local councils in the former Yugoslavia also had ‘producers’ chambers’ for working people as part of their system of workers’ self-management. Such as chamber would not replace parliamentary democracy, but should expand it.

I discuss in the video just how Tony Blair allowed big business to define government policy as directed by corporate donors, and how staff and senior managers were given government posts. He particularly favoured the big supermarkets and other firms under the Private Finance Initiative. This is extensively discussed by the Guardian journalist, George Monbiot, in his book, Captive State. I make the point that this wouldn’t be quite so bad if New Labour had also acted for working people. But it didn’t. And it has become much worse under Cameron and Tweezer. In America the corporate corruption of parliament has got to the extent that a recent study by Harvard University downgraded America from being a functioning democracy to an oligarchy. I also point out that, while I’m not a Marxist, this does bear out Marx’s view of the state as the instrument of class rule.

I discuss how the Labour party was founded to represent working people by the trade unionists in parliament, who were originally elected as part of the Liberal party, the ‘Lib-Labs’, who were then joined by the socialist societies. The Chartists at one of their conventions also saw it as a real ‘parliament of trades’ and some considered it the true parliament. I also talk about how such a chamber became part of Mussolini’s Fascism, but make the point that it was to disguise the reality of Mussolini’s personal rule and that it never actually passed any legislation itself, but only approved his. Trade unions were strictly controlled in Fascist Italy, and far greater freedom was given to the employers’ associations.

I also say in the video how trade unions were involved in democratic post-War politics through a system which brought trade unions, employers and government together. However, in order to prevent strikes, successive government also passed legislation similar to the Fascists, providing for compulsory labour courts and banning strikes and lockouts.

There are therefore dangers in setting up such a chamber, but I want to empower working people, not imprison them through such legislation. And I think that such a chamber, which takes on board the lessons in workers’ self-management from Communist Yugoslavia, should expand democracy if done properly.