Posts Tagged ‘the Poor’

The Long Johns on the Pointed Lesson of the South Sea Bubble

January 30, 2023

Here’s another razor-sharp piece of satire from the Long Johns, the late John Bird and John Fortune, though it’s set very firmly in the past. It’s from Raveemismail’s channel on YouTube, and has them performing their dialogue in period costume as an ordinary investor caught out by a predatory broker selling shares in the South Sea Bubble of 1720. This was a notorious financial scandal when shares were being sold in the South Sea Company. Very handsome profits were promised, the shares skyrocketed in value but there was absolutely nothing backing them up. The whole affair collapsed ruining people. The dialogue also mentions a similar scandal of 90 years previously, the tulipomania that hit the Netherlands where members of the respectable Dutch middle class bankrupted themselves buying tulips. This is obviously acutely relevant to similar crashes far more recently, like the subprime mortgages and the bankers’ crash. From the comments to the video it seems that it was also relevant to the way bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were being pushed. It just shows that how relevant some incidents from the past still are in the 21st first century.

This is so much the case that one American investment house used to require its employees to read the book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, written in the 19th century. The book discussed a series of historical and contemporary fads, from alchemy and the witch craze in the Middle Ages to the craze for people saying ‘Quoz’ in England at the time. And one of these was the South Sea Bubble. It’s a pity nobody took that piece of history more seriously, or we might have avoided the bankers’ crash, austerity, and nigh on 15 years of austerity and poverty inflicted on the poor and ordinary working people in order to keep the banks afloat and give more money to the already bloated rich.

The Heil Once Again Bashing Benefit Claimants with Story about ‘Something for Nothing’ Culture

January 23, 2023

I saw a video about this posted on YouTube by GB News, which could be described as the Heil’s televisual equivalent. Oswald Mosley’s favourite paper published a piece today railing about Britain’s ‘something for nothing’ culture because they’d done some kind of survey which found that some households received more from the state on benefits than they did from work. I didn’t watch it, as I knew exactly what it would be like. The Heil’s published stuff like this before. Anyone remember one they ran a few decade ago, in which they ranted about the people of Britain all being on benefits because they’d found a street where most of the people were receiving some kind of welfare support. Coincidentally that street seemed to be occupied mostly by members of ethnic minorities, though I’m sure that this wasn’t part of the reason it was chosen by the paper.

The article was so stereotypical of the wretched rag that you could guess what would follow: rubbish about how welfare payments were too generous and were acting as a disincentive to finding work and should therefore be cut. More drivel along the lines of the Tories’ ‘make work pay’ campaign, which simply cut benefits and increased sanctions and pressure on benefit claimants even further instead of really making work pay by abandoning the wage freeze policy and actually encouraging firms to pay workers proper wages. But that would violate one of the central tenets of Thatcherite Conservatism: the poor should be penalised for being poor, in order to make them compete against each other in a desperate struggle to improve themselves, while the rich benefit from their cheap labour. As for GB News, they’re a right-wing broadcaster and so I’m sure they have the same mentality. The article was a classic example of how the Tories, the Heil and GB News, whatever they may say to the contrary, want working people poor, desperate and turning on each other rather than the people who are really causing their misery.

Get the Tories out, and ignore the right-wing propaganda in the Mail and on TV.

Etienne-Gabriel Morelly and 18th Century Communism

January 17, 2023

Modern communism long predates Marxism. The common ownership of property and the means of production is in Thomas More’s Utopia, where work is allotted to the inhabitants by a phylarch or head bailiff, annually elected by groups of thirty families. One of the advocates of communism in the 18th century was Etienne-Gabriel Morelly in his book, Code de la Nature. Wikipedia’s brief biography of him runs:

Étienne-Gabriel Morelly (French: [etjɛn gabʁjɛl mɔʁɛli]; 1717–1778) was a French utopian thinker, philosopher and novelist. An otherwise “obscure tax official”, and teacher, Morelly wrote two books on education, a critique of Montesquieu and The Code of Nature, which was published anonymously in France in 1755. This book, initially attributed to philosophes including Rousseau and Diderot, criticised contemporary society, postulated a social order without avarice, and proposed a constitution intended to lead to an egalitarian society without property, marriage, church or police.’

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89tienne-Gabriel_Morelly

Plamenatz gives a brief description of his ideas in Man and Society: From Montesquieu to the Early Socialists. He states

‘So, too, Morelly does not confine himself to proposing common ownership on the ground that private property is corrupting; he also proposes the direction of labour, public works to absorb unemployment, and the closing down of unprofitable industries. He wants to ensure that production as a whole satisfies all needs, and that no one is overworked. The communist economy described in the Code de la Nature, which is only one (and the most extreme) of several projects prepared by Morelly during the course of his life, involves just as much social control of production as the schemes of Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen. But Morelly never says or even implies that the indefinite increase of wealth is desirable, and his conception of efficient production is not the same as the economists and nineteenth-century socialists. It matters to him that the idle should not exploit the industrious, that all who can should work, that no one should be unprovided for, that the vices born of inequality should disappear, but it does not matter to him that production should be so organised as to make men much wealthier than they are. Though he approves of much spending on public monuments and festivals, he expects the citizens to live modestly. The communists of the eighteenth century mostly favoured sober living; it was much more Voltaire, Mandeville and Montesquieu, and after them the Encyclopaedists and Utilitarians, who took the accumulation of wealth for a mark of progress and who approved of high living. It was not till the nineteenth century that the champions of the poor-the preachers of equality, the scourges of the rich-came to be materialists, in the sense meant by Tocqueville when he spoke of their attachment to ‘unlimited consumption’.

Communism failed because it did not create wealth and instead locked its peoples in poverty and tyranny. But that doesn’t mean that the early theorists of communism and socialism are valueless, and their ideas don’t point the way to a better social system.

The Fascist Argument Against Free Market Capitalism

January 15, 2023

I notice that as the failure of contemporary free market capitalism becomes every more obvious, its right-wing supporters are out on the net telling everyone how wonderful capitalism is. Capitalism, according to them, has lifted more people out of poverty than any socialist state has ever done. You find this repeated by the Lotus Eaters, and I recent found yet another video on YouTube put up by a right-winger.

Now there is something to this. Marx in the Communist Manifesto was impressed by the global achievements of capitalism, and industrialisation and trade has produced development and prosperity in Britain, the West and elsewhere, and lifted people out of the poverty of agricultural subsistence economies. But this hasn’t been done by capitalism alone. Trade unions have also been part of the development of mass prosperity in the industrialised nations through demands for increased wages, better working conditions and so on, a fact ignored by the right. And working people in the west enjoyed their greatest period of prosperity when capitalism was regulated as part of the post-War consensus. In Britain this took the form of a mixed economy in which the utilities were owned and operated by the state. The privatisation of these utilities, the devastation of the welfare state and the deregulation of the economy has led to a massive transfer of wealth upwards, so that the poor have become colossally poorer and the wealth of the rich even more bloated and obscene. Properly regulated, capitalism does raise people out of poverty. But free market capitalism, of the kind frantically promoted by right-wingers like the Lotus Eaters, has done the reverse.

But let’s grant them that the 19th century was an age of industrial and agricultural expansion in which people enriched themselves. Mussolini expressed this view in his speech about the corporative state he was introducing into Italy. The fascist corporations were industrial organisations, one for each industry, which included representatives of the trade unions and the owners’ organisations. The Italian parliament was dissolved and reorganised into a Chamber of Fasces and Corporations, in which these organisations were supposed to debate economic policy. In fact, it just served as a rubber stamp for the Duce’s decisions. It was, however, important for propaganda purposes, to show that Mussolini’s regime had transcended capitalism and socialism.

The Fascists weren’t enemies of capitalism, far from it. Mussolini’s constitution made private industry the basis of the state and economic life, which is why I’m using it his critique of free market capitalism against the free marketeers. Mussolini had been a radical socialist, but when the Fascists seized power he declared them to be true followers of Manchester School capitalism. In other words, free trade. This was accompanied by a programme of privatisation. In Germany Hitler gave a speech to the German equivalent of the Confederation of British Industry, saying that capitalism could only be preserved through a dictatorship. He stated that he would not nationalise any company, unless it was failing. During the Nazi dictatorship industry was organised into a series of interlocking associations subject to state control. But they were not nationalised, and the leadership of the organisations was always given to private industrialists, not the managers of state industries.

Back to Italy, Mussolini described how this initial period had begun to decay. The old family run firms declined, to be replaced by joint stock companies. At the same time, firms organised themselves into cartels. In America, these cartels demanded intervention from the government. Mussolini announced that, if left unchecked, this would lead to the emergence of a state capitalism that was every bit as pernicious as state socialism. His solution was that capitalism needed to be more ‘social’. It would be subordinated to the state through the corporations, where workers and management would cooperate to make Italy a great power once more.

Something similar has happened over the past four decades. Under this new corporativism, representatives of private industry have entered government as advisors and officials, often in the departments charged with regulating their industries. At the same time, industry has received massive subsidies and tax breaks so that much of the tax burden has moved lower down on working people. Mussolini was correct about private industry demanding state intervention, however much this is denied and state planning attacked by free market theorists. And the result is corporativism, which the free marketeers denounce as not being true capitalism. But it’s been pointed out that the type of capitalism they believe in has never existed.

Free market capitalism is a failure. The solution is not a murderous dictatorship, but the old, regulated, mixed economy of the social democratic consensus. An economy that includes private industry, but which recognises that it alone does not create wealth, and which demands the inclusion of working people and their organisations in industrial negotiations and policies in order to create prosperity for working people.

38 Degrees Petition to Get Jeremy Hunt to Provide Free School Meals to Children on Universal Credit

November 25, 2022

I got this message yesterday from the internet petitioning organisation objecting to Jeremy Hunt’s apparent refusal to provide free school meals to four-firths of a million children on Universal Credit, but who currently don’t qualify for free school meals. I’ve signed it, and if you feel as strongly about it as I do, I hope you’ll do the same. Because this is obscene. Britain is one of the richest countries in the world, and millions of working people and children are going hungry. They have to use food banks to stave off starvation, and now there are warm banks to make sure they don’t die of hypothermia because they can’t afford to heat their homes. Marcus Rashford, God bless ‘im, managed to shame them into providing fee school meals to deprived kids during the holidays. And they hate him for it. They published hit pieces afterwards lambasting him for being rich and having more than one house. Guess what? That’s irrelevant. The Fabian Society rejected class war, and so, I think, did the Labour party in general. They fought for the working class but saw socialism as such an eminently reasonable social system of society that everyone would benefit. This is where Labour differs from Communism. The only people who are fighting a class war, and exploiting class resentment, are the Tories in order to keep the workers firmly in their place.

‘Dear David,

800,000 vulnerable children are going to school hungry and missing out on free school meals – yet Chancellor Jeremy Hunt had nothing to say about it in last week’s budget. [1] He’s happy to leave hundreds of thousands of families, on Universal Credit but not eligible for free school meals, to struggle to feed their kids. [2]

David – we won’t let the Government get away with this. Our petition to expand free school meals is over 90% of the way to 100,000 signatures – but your name is missing. [3]

We MUST push this up the Government’s agenda if we’re to protect families struggling this winter. [4] That’s why we have BIG plans to expand this campaign – and it all starts with ramping up names on this petition and handing it in to Rishi Sunak to put child hunger firmly on his radar. As for the next stage of the campaign… watch this space!

So David, will you add your name to show Rishi Sunak he can’t get away with letting kids go hungry?It only takes a few seconds to sign!

I’LL ADD MY NAME

I’m not signing because…

It feels like we’re getting close to a breakthrough, David. Supermarkets, local councils, and celebrities are piling on the pressure to expand free school meals. [4] But time and again, the Government has failed to give critical support to families most in need – which is why we need your name, and your support.

So David, will you sign today to urge this Government to expand free school meals and keep this country’s children fed?If each of us reading this signs, we’ll smash the 100,000 target!

I’LL ADD MY NAME

I’m not signing because…

Thanks for all you do,

Flo, Tash, Siobhan, Angus and the 38 Degrees team

NOTES:
[1] The Guardian: ‘It would mean so much’: parents on the need to expand free school meals 
The Independent: Feed the Future: Jeremy Hunt ignores pleas to expand free school meals in autumn Budget 
[2] See note 1.
[3] 38 Degrees: Rishi Sunak: don’t let kids go hungry by ditching the free school meals expansion! 
[4] Evening Standard: UK supermarkets join calls for expansion of free school meals 

Yiddish Workers’ Song

November 25, 2022

This is a real piece of forgotten Jewish working-class culture. I’ve put up a number of Socialist Jewish songs and anthems in Yiddish and Hebrew, including the Communist Internationale and the anthem of the Russian/Polish Bund. The Bund were the mass Jewish socialist party in Poland, fighting for the rights of Polish Jews who strongly rejected Zionism and wished to live in peace and equality in their native country with their gentile Polish compatriots. This song, Dem Arbeters Lid, ‘The Workers’ Song’, from Jane Peppler’s channel on YouTube, is characteristically Jewish but also strongly internationalist It says at one point that ‘race and nationality mean nothing to you’. It comes from the Jewish Labor Movement, which I would imagine is the American Jewish socialist movement, as shown by the thumbnail of a picket line of lady tailors on strike. It’s composer, Louis Gilrod, used as the tune the American song ‘The Mother of the Girl I Love’. It’s in Waltz time and reminds me very strongly of Edwardian British parlour songs.

It opens by describing the exhausted, penniless, ‘self-enslaved’ Jewish workers toiling as tailors. Their children are naked and their wives sick and weak. But they will bring about a new social order in which they will be free and there will be no rich and poor. These are sentiments that would no doubt leave the British Jewish Labour Movement, now a part of the Labour party, screaming in fury along with some of the other Blairites. Because somehow, some of them have got it into their tiny minds that socialism is anti-Semitic because it’s against capitalism. Presumably the Blairite moron who said this Radio 4 didn’t realise that by equating capitalism with Jewry she had just expressed the same views as Hitler and other grotty fascists, such as our own wretched Oswald Mosley. The picture of the squalor and poverty of the workers in the garment industry is absolutely accurate. Many, perhaps most of the Jewish immigrants to America were Yiddish-speaking Romanian fleeing persecution in that country. They were dirt poor, living in poorly furnished, overcrowded tenements, sometimes even just occupying stairwells. Many of the women were poorly paid workers in the garment industry. One of the most horrific disasters that hit the New York Jewish community in this period was a fire that broke out in one of the upper stories of one of the clothing factories. This resulted in tens, perhaps over a hundred dead. some of the women were killed because there were no adequate exits, and so leapt to their deaths. As for the myth of Jews sticking together against gentiles, the factories’ owners were also Jews who lived in the affluent districts uptown with their gentile neighbours.

38 Degrees Launches Cost of Living Catastrophe Map

October 17, 2022

I got this email from internet democracy site 38 Degrees earlier this evening.

BREAKING: the Government has ripped up their disastrous mini-budget – and now they want us to pick up the pieces. [1] They’ve put our livelihoods, our homes and our futures on the line with their reckless plans, and turned the cost of living crisis into a catastrophe. [2]

But with no sign of the rescue plan we’ve needed all along, we need to show them the price we’re paying. And we’ve got just the thing.

So we’ve just launched a HUGE, ambitious new project: the cost of living catastrophe, mapped.[3]Our interactive map spotlights more than 1,000 stories from across the 38 Degrees community – and the country.These are the real lives behind this catastrophe.

This is what the map looks like

Together, thousands of us have forced the Government into the biggest U-turn we’ve ever seen – but we can go further. [4]If all of us share this map far and wide, we’ll put the stories behind this catastrophe front and centre, so journalists, MPs and the Governmentwill have no doubt that we need a proper rescue plan for the country.

So, David, will you help keep up the pressure on the Government by sharing our cost of living catastrophe map – and show the real price of this crisis?

Twitter is the best way to ensure as many MPs and journalists see this map. Just click below and retweet the 38 Degrees tweet or – if you can – ‘quote tweet’ it and share your own cost of living story. You could even tag your MP!

SHARE ON TWITTER

If you don’t have Twitter, you can share on Facebook or WhatsApp instead.

SHARE ON FACEBOOK

SHARE ON WHATSAPP

Or, if you don’t use social media, will you consider chipping in so we can help share it via online and offline ads.

Thank you for being involved,

Flo, Angus, Matt, Jonathan and the 38 Degrees team

NOTES:
[1] BBC News: New chancellor reverses ‘almost all’ tax measures 
The Telegraph (paywall): Energy price cap could be torn up under plans considered in Whitehall
[2] BBC News: What was in the mini-budget and what has changed?
The Independent (paywall): Kwarteng confirms further cuts of up to £18bn for public services
Sky News: Cost of living: More mortgage products now on offer – but interest rates continue to rise
[3] 38 Degrees: The cost of living catastrophe, mapped 

I’ve absolutely no problem with posting this on social media. The Khazi may be gone, but Liz Truss and her Tory hordes are still in power, and people are still hurting. And they don’t care about the poor – only about the rich, and getting re-elected.

Lobster’s Robin Ramsey Explains Why Thatcherism Didn’t Work as Claimed and Why Truss Will Fail

October 2, 2022

In my last piece I said that Lobster’s editor, Robin Ramsey, has a background in economics and that he said in one of his pieces for the magazine that the Tories recognised long ago that trickled down economics didn’t work. They still wanted to cut spending and punish the poor for being poor while giving lots of more money to the rich. They just had to find a better pretext for it. So they started arguing for their wretched policies on grounds of morality. Now Truss has gone back to the old trickle down argument. In the recent issue of Lobster, 84, Ramsey has a piece in his ‘View from the Bridge’ column, ‘All Trussed Up’ explaining why Thatcher’s economics policies didn’t work in the way she thought they did, and even despite her best efforts, and why this means Truss’ policies will fail. He writes

‘On the day that Prime Minister Truss made her announcement about dealing with the energy crisis here, The Times (8 September) briefly mentioned (on p. 39) that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was off to the City to discuss ‘Big Bang 2’ – further deregulation of the financial services sector. Centrally, I would guess, will be a change to the rules introduced after the financial crisis of 2007-9 which increased the amount of capital the banks had to keep in reserve. In other words, financial gambling is going to be encouraged again. The central question with this new government is this: do they really believe that this warmed-over Thatcherism will work? My guess is that they do; that they have spent too long in a free marketeer intellectual ghetto to understand even the Thatcher years. They have failed to grasp that Thatcherism didn’t work on its own terms: it did not ‘cure’ inflation and did not produce more economic growth than its predecessors. Mrs Thatcher’s ‘reforms’ were possible because her government had North Sea oil revenues to pay for mass unemployment; could sell off chunks of the public sector; and, despite her best efforts to kill it, had a manufacturing base three times as big as it is now. The new government has little oil revenue; a much diminished manufacturing base; and not much of the public sector left to be sold. It will be interesting to see how long it takes them to grasp that the horse they are enthusiastically flogging is dead.’

For further information, go to https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/article/issue/84/the-view-from-the-bridge-47/

Comment about Poverty and the Destruction of the Irish Health Service from Video of Protests in Eire

September 26, 2022

Earlier this evening I found on my phone a video of a Cost of Living protest posted on YouTube by People Before Profit National two days ago. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find it on my computer, so I don’t know what’s happened to it. I think it may have been from Eire, by a single comment I found posted to it. That was very interesting, and ran:

‘This cost of living crisis is not a new thing, and people’s lives have been adversely affected for a very long time.

As stroke, cancer, asthma patients, and disabled people have had no access to health, no access to medications, no access to treatment and no access to operations,, and no access to services for over four years, as GPs have stopped accepting medical card holders, and those minority vulnerable groups who are on low pay are faced with no other choice but to pay for GP, prescription and medication costs, in a country where healthcare is supposed to be free.

FF, FG and the Greens have a lot to answer for in the manner in which minority vulnerable groups are mistreated in Ireland, and this coming budget will do nothing to address those massive inequalities, or discriminations the silenced minority already face in everyday life. In 2022 it is a democratic, political and and human rights crisis how the sickest and the poorest people in society are living as fifth class citizens, and I hope the YouTube overlords do not block this from being posted in the comment section, like they do when people speak out against these issues.

Let’s Go Socialism (followed by a heart and a thumbs-up sign)’

The video to which this comment was attached only played for a few minutes before the screen turned black. I don’t know what happened to it or the comment so that I can’t find either of them using my computer. But I am very interested in the comment and what it says about the state of healthcare in the south. I don’t understand Irish politics and know nothing about the Irish healthcare system. But from reading the comment it sounds like Irish government have been starving it of funding, forcing the sick and disabled to pay for GP visits and their medicines. It sounds very much like what Liz Truss and the Tories would like to see in Britain with their cuts and privatisation of the NHS.

Best of luck and solidarity with everyone fighting these policies in Ireland, Britain and everywhere else.

Broadside Ballad: ‘The Poor Man Pays For All’

August 20, 2022

This is just a video of me reading the lyrics for a ballad written in 1630, lamenting that ‘The Poor Man Pays For All’ and playing the tune accompanying it. It’s a bitter attack on the exploitation of the poor by the rich of various professions, including usurers, courtiers, lawyers, pub landlords, brewers, candle-makers, bakers and maltsters. It was written during a period of high inflation caused by the influx of gold from the Spanish colonies in South America. This caused the poor to become poorer, while benefiting enterprising landlords, yeomen farmers and merchants. So like today’s cost of living crisis, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

Words and music from Roy Palmer, A Ballad History of England from 1588 to the Present Day (London: B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1979)