Posts Tagged ‘Tony Benn’

Scots Tory Davidson Warns Boris Willing to Destroy UK for Brexit

June 28, 2019

On the 18th of this month, Mike at Vox Political wrote a piece noting a YouGov poll that found that the majority of Tory members are hellbent on getting Brexit, even if it means the break-up of the United Kingdom, significant damage to its economy and even the destruction of the Tory party itself.

The poll found that, when asked the question whether they would be willing to avert Brexit if it meant Scotland or Northern Ireland leaving Britain, 63% and 59% of Tories would be quite happy to see those nations leave Britain. 61% said they would also be prepared to accept significant damage to Britain’s economy if we left the EU. 54% also said that they would be happy to see the Tory party destroyed for Brexit. Only 36% put their party’s survival before Brexit.

See: https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/06/18/most-conservative-members-would-see-party-destroye

Commenting on this, Mike predicted in his article that Scottish SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would mention it in her speech marking 20 years of devolution.

The Tory death wish: They’ll have Brexit even if it destroys the UK

And now, according to the front page of today’s I, 28th June 2019, the leaders of the Scottish Tories, Ruth Davidson, has warned that Boris’ determination to achieve Brexit whatever the cost – ‘do or die’ – risks breaking up the UK. She was therefore backing Jeremy Hunt instead. Davidson said

‘I want to see him [Johnson] make assurances that it’s not Brexit do or die, it’s the Union do or die. That’s exactly what we’ve seen from the other candidate in the race and that’s why he’s going to get my vote.’

The newspaper also reports that

Polling has suggested that if the former foreign secretary becomes prime minister it could boost support for Scottish independence. (p.6).

Mike reported that the only thing that would stop the Tories from demanding Brexit at the first opportunity is the likelihood that this would lead to Corbyn taking up the reigns of government. But, he concluded

such a government is more likely if they choose a leader committed to Brexit at any cost.

And at the moment, Boris Johnson is the the leading candidate in the Tory leadership contest, despite his determination to force through Brexit whatever the cost. The I has also reported that he’s said that those Tories opposed to a no-deal Brexit will not get posts in his government.

And I’m not at all surprised that the Tories are willing to risk the break-up of the EU. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve heard rumours that the Tories were on the verge of collapse during Blair’s tenure of office. So much so that they were considering changing their name to the ‘English Nationalists’. And I do remember reading an opinion piece in the Heil, which considered that the departure of Scotland from the Union would not significantly harm Conservatism. This claimed that it was only recently that the Tories in Scotland had called themselves Conservatives. Before then they were called the Unionist party. But this still goes back to the period after the early 18th century union with Scotland. What would be the point of having a unionist party, if there was no union, and no real likelihood of ever reviving it?

It just confirms that Brexit is very much an English demand, and the Tory Brexiteers are bitter English nationalists, neither more nor less.

And it flies in the face of the way the Tories under Thatcher appropriated Britishness, its symbols and history. I can remember one headline in the Sunday Telegraph, unsurprisingly about how wonder Thatcher was, had the headline ‘Don’t Call Them Boojwah, Call Them British!’ I think it was a quote from Maggie herself. But the Conservatism she promoted was deeply bourgeois and nationalistic to its core. They seemed to waste no opportunity to drape themselves in Union Flags, like Tim Brooke-Taylor in his Union flag waistcoat on the Goodies, but without the comic trio’s irony. In one programme about Thatcher and the Tory party, her husband, Dennis, declared that his favourite song was Rule Britannia. Which he then tried to sing, only to realise he didn’t know the words. And then there was their infamous 1987 election film, which seemed to show that they had singlehandedly won the Battle of Britain. This showed old wartime footage of Spitfires chasing about the skies, while an excited voice declared ‘Man was born free. It’s our fundamental right.’ Really? I thought the complete quote, from the first sentence or so of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract was ‘Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.’ Which effectively describes the condition of everyone, who isn’t massively rich, under the Tories. The sadly departed Alan Coren commented drily about it on the News Quiz, calling it the Royal Conservative Airforce, and saying what a pity it all was for the Tories that after the War the servicemen all came back and voted Labour. Quite. But it does show how the Tories appropriated British patriotism.

And it also shows the reverse: how the Tories demonised anyone who didn’t share their chauvinism and racism – who wasn’t, as Thatcher put it, ‘one of us’ – was really an evil subversive intent on destroying Britain. Left-wing members of the Labour party, who supported the ‘troops out’ movement, like Tony Benn, land who made the reasonable point that to stop the violence we had to talk to Sinn Fein, were vilified as supporters of the IRA. And the same people, who wanted to thaw relations with the USSR instead of ramping up tensions like Reagan and Thatcher, because of the very real danger of nuclear Armageddon were also vilified as Communists by the Tories, the Tory press, and the press secret state.

Oh yes, and if Labour got in power under someone like Benn, Foote, Livingstone or even Neil Kinnock, when he actually believed in traditional Labour values, would destroy the economy.

But it isn’t Labour threatening to destroy the UK. Corbyn and his supporters aren’t telling the world that they’re content to break up the EU or consciously wreak the British economy, provided they get a disastrous policy through. It’s the Tories.

They’re the real subversives and destroyers of this nation. Which is why they have to make up bogus stories about the Labour party being full of anti-Semites, Trotskyites and Stalinists.

If you want to see a genuinely prosperous, united Britain, that’s fair to working people of every nation in this great country, vote Labour.

Because the Tories are happy to see it destroyed and impoverished.

 

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Reviewing the ‘I’s’ Review of Ian McEwan’s ‘Machines Like Me’

April 21, 2019

George Barr’s cover illo for Lloyd Biggle’s The Metallic Muse. From David Kyle, the Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas & Dreams (London: Hamlyn 1977).

The book’s pages of last Friday’s I , for 19th April 2019, carried a review by Jude Cook of Ian McEwan’s latest literary offering, a tale of a love triangle between a man, the male robot he has purchased, and his wife, a plot summed up in the review’s title, ‘Boy meets robot, robot falls for girl’. I’d already written a piece in anticipation of its publication on Thursday, based on a little snippet in Private Eye’s literary column that McEwan, Jeanette Winterson and Kazuo Ishiguro were all now turning to robots and AI for their subject matter, and the Eye expected other literary authors, like Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie, to follow. My objection to this is that it appeared to be another instance of the literary elite taking their ideas from Science Fiction, while looking down on the genre and its writers. The literary establishment has moved on considerably, but I can still remember the late, and very talented Terry Pratchett complaining at the Cheltenham Literary Festival that the organisers had looked at him as if he was about to talk to all his waiting fans crammed into the room about motorcycle maintenance.

Cook’s review gave an outline of the plot and some of the philosophical issues discussed in the novel. Like the Eye’s piece, it also noted the plot’s similarity to that of the Channel 4 series, Humans. The book is set in an alternative 1982 in which the Beatles are still around and recording, Tony Benn is Prime Minister, but Britain has lost the Falklands War. It’s a world where Alan Turing is still alive, and has perfected machine consciousness. The book’s hero, Charlie, purchases one of the only 25 androids that have been manufactured, Adam. This is not a sex robot, but described as ‘capable of sex’, and which has an affair with the hero’s wife, Miranda. Adam is an increasing threat to Charlie, refusing to all his master to power him down. There’s also a subplot about a criminal coming forward to avenge the rape Miranda has suffered in the past, and a four year old boy about to be placed in the care system.

Cook states that McEwan discusses the philosophical issue of the Cartesian duality between mind and brain when Charlie makes contact with Turing, and that Charlie has to decide whether Adam is too dangerous to be allowed to continue among his flesh and blood counterparts, because

A Manichean machine-mind that can’t distinguish between a white lie and a harmful lie, or understand that revenge can sometimes be justified, is potentially lethal.

Cook declares that while this passage threatens to turn the book into a dry cerebral exercise, its engagement with the big questions is its strength, concluding

The novel’s presiding Prospero is Turing himself, who observes that AI is fatally flawed because life is “an open system… full of tricks and feints and ambiguities”. His great hope is that by its existence “we might be shocked in doing something about ourselves.”

Robots and the Edisonade

It’s an interesting review, but what it does not do is mention the vast amount of genre Science Fiction that has used robots to explore the human condition, the limits or otherwise of machine intelligence and the relationship between such machines and their creators, since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. There clearly seems to be a nod to Shelley with the name of this android, as the monster in her work, I think, is also called Adam. But Eando Binder – the nom de plume of the brothers Earl and Otto Binder, also wrote a series of stories in the 1930s and ’40s about a robot, Adam Link, one of which was entitled I, Robot, which was later used as the title of one of Asimov’s stories. And although the term ‘robot’ was first used of such machines by the Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920s play, RUR, or Rossum’s Universal Robots, they first appeared in the 19th century. One of these was Villier de l’Isle-Adam, L’Eve Futur of 1884. This was about a robot woman invented by Thomas Edison. As one of the 19th centuries foremost inventors, Edison was the subject of a series of proto-SF novels, the Edisonades, in which his genius allowed him to create all manner of advanced machines. In another such tale, Edison invents a spaceship and weapons that allow humanity to travel to the planets and conquer Mars. McEwan’s book with its inclusion of Alan Turing is basically a modern Edisonade, but with the great computer pioneer rather than the 19th century electrician as its presiding scientific genius. Possibly later generations will have novels set in an alternative late 20th century where Stephen Hawking has invented warp drive, time travel or a device to take us into alternative realities via artificial Black Holes.

Robot Romances

As I said in my original article, there are any number of SF books about humans having affairs with robots, like Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover, Lester del Rey’s Helen O’Loy and Asimov’s Satisfaction Guaranteed. The genre literature has also explored the moral and philosophical issues raised by the creation of intelligent machines. In much of this literature, robots are a threat, eventually turning on their masters, from Capek’s R.U.R. through to The Terminator and beyond. But some writers, like Asimov, have had a more optimistic view. In his 1950 I, Robot, a robot psychologist, Dr. Susan Calvin, describes them in a news interview as ‘a cleaner, better breed than we are’.

Lem’s Robots and Descartes

As for the philosophical issues, the Polish SF writer, Stanislaw Lem, explored them in some of his novels and short stories. One of these deals with the old problem, also dating back to Descartes, about whether we can truly know that there is an external world. The story’s hero, the space pilot Pirx, visits a leading cybernetician in his laboratory. This scientist has developed a series of computer minds. These exist, however, without robot bodies, but the minds themselves are being fed programmes which make them believe that they are real, embodied people living in the real world. One of these minds is of a beautiful woman with a scar on her shoulder from a previous love affair. Sometimes the recorded programmes jump a groove, creating instances of precognition or deja vu. But ultimately, all these minds are, no matter how human or how how real they believe themselves to be, are brains in vats. Just like Descartes speculated that a demon could stop people from believing in a real world by casting the illusion of a completely false one on the person they’ve possessed.

Morality and Tragedy in The ABC Warriors 

Some of these complex moral and personal issues have also been explored by comics, until recently viewed as one of the lowest forms of literature. In a 1980s ‘ABC Warriors’ story in 2000AD, Hammerstein, the leader of a band of heroic robot soldiers, remembers his earliest days. He was the third prototype of a series of robot soldiers. The first was an efficient killer, patriotically killing Communists, but exceeded its function. It couldn’t tell civilians from combatants, and so committed war crimes. The next was programmed with a set of morals, which causes it to become a pacifist. It is killed trying to persuade the enemy – the Volgans – to lay down their arms. Hammerstein is its successor. He has been given morals, but not to the depth that they impinge on his ability to kill. For example, enemy soldiers are ‘terrorists’. But those on our side are ‘freedom fighters’. When the enemy murders civilians, it’s an atrocity. When we kill civilians, it’s unavoidable casualties. As you can see, the writer and creator of the strip, Pat Mills, has very strong left-wing opinions.

Hammerstein’s programming is in conflict, so his female programmer takes him to a male robot psychiatrist, a man who definitely has romantic intentions towards her. They try to get Hammerstein to come out of his catatonic reverie by trying to provoke a genuine emotional reaction. So he’s exposed to all manner of stimuli, including great works of classical music, a documentary about Belsen, and the novels of Barbara Cartland. But the breakthrough finally comes when the psychiatrist tries to kiss his programmer. This provokes Hammerstein into a frenzied attack, in which he accidentally kills both. Trying to repair the damage he’s done, Hammerstein says plaintively ‘I tried to replace his head, but it wouldn’t screw back on.’

It’s a genuinely adult tale within the overall, action-oriented story in which the robots are sent to prevent a demon from Earth’s far future from destroying the Galaxy by destabilising the artificial Black and White Holes at the centre of Earth’s underground civilisation, which have been constructed as express routes to the stars. It’s an example of how the comics culture of the time was becoming more adult, and tackling rather more sophisticated themes.

Conclusion: Give Genre Authors Their Place at Literary Fiction Awards

It might seem a bit mean-spirited to compare McEwan’s latest book to its genre predecessors. After all, in most reviews of fiction all that is required is a brief description of the plot and the reviewer’s own feelings about the work, whether it’s done well or badly. But there is a point to this. As I’ve said, McEwan, Winterson, Ishiguro and the others, who may well follow their lead, are literary authors, whose work regularly wins the big literary prizes. They’re not genre authors, and the type of novels they write are arguably seen by the literary establishment as superior to that of genre Science Fiction. But here they’re taking over proper Science Fiction subjects – robots and parallel worlds – whose authors have extensively explored their moral and philosophical implications. This is a literature that can’t and shouldn’t be dismissed as trash, as Stanislaw Lem has done, and which the judges and critics of mainstream literary fiction still seem to do. McEwan’s work deserves to be put into the context of genre Science Fiction. The literary community may feel that it’s somehow superior, but it is very much of the same type as its genre predecessors, who did the themes first and, in my opinion, better.

There is absolutely no reason, given the quality of much SF literature, why this tale by McEwan should be entered for a literary award or reviewed by the kind of literary journals that wouldn’t touch genre science fiction with a barge pole, while genre SF writers are excluded. It’s high time that highbrow literary culture recognised and accepted works and writers of genre SF as equally worthy of respect and inclusion.

Lobster on Secret State Anti-Labour Smears in National Archives

April 5, 2019

Editor Robin Ramsay has added another update to the ‘View from the Bridge’ section of the conspiracy/parapolitics magazine Lobster, for issue 77, Summer 2019. Amongst the other news and comments is a piece ‘IRD and Fake News’, about the the depositing of 2,000 IRD files in the National Archives. The Beeb’s correspondent, Sanchia Berg, covered it in an article, ‘”Fake News” – sent out by government department’ on the BBC News website.

The IRD – Information Research Department – was a section of the British secret services set up during the Cold War to produce disinformation, black propaganda and psy-ops against the Russians and any other enemies of Britain, real or perceived. Berg in her article states this is the first time the IRD’s own forgeries have been revealed. Ramsay doubts that’s the case, as there were other forgeries in the possession of Colin Wallace, a whistleblower on the government’s dirty tricks during the war against the IRA in Northern Ireland. Others were also sent to Ramsay himself. He states that it was unclear, who concocted them, IRD or MI5. Most seemed to be aimed at foreign journos, who wouldn’t be able to tell if they were authentic or not. He also states that most of them were intended to portray the IRA as a front for the Soviets.

Ramsay gives an example of this black propaganda in his piece, though he acknowledges that it’s a poor copy. It’s a poster for a vigil to commemorate the victims of Bloody Sunday in Derry. The poster is real, but has been altered to include the names of the Labour MPs Merlyn Rees, Stan Orme, David Owen,  Tony Benn and Paul Rose.

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster77/lob77-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

This just adds more information that the secret state has been smearing the Labour left, with the connivance of the British media, for a very long time. In the case of MI5, such smears go back to the Zinoviev letter in the 1920s. It’s very clear that you cannot believe anything the papers or the British state says about Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.

Other items of interest in the recent update include Ramsay’s own comments attacking Boris Johnson’s criticism of the Bloody Sunday inquiry, and evidence that the Americans knew Iran, rather than Libya, was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. Oh yes, and there is also evidence that they also knew that the Red Army, rather than being a ruthlessly efficient machine ready to roll over the West, was a drunken shambles. But that was suppressed because it didn’t fit the established narrative of the Soviet threat.

Aaron Bastani of Novara Media Exposes BBC Anti-Labour Bias

March 16, 2019

The Beeb has been hit with several scandals recently about its right-wing bias, and particularly about the very slanted debates and the selection of the guests and panel in Question Time. Members of the audience have been revealed as UKIP and Tory plants, the panels frequently consist of four members of the right against only one left-winger, chair Fiona Bruce intervenes to support Conservative speakers and repeat right-wing falsehoods. When she and other members of staff aren’t making jokes for the audience against Diane Abbott, of course.

In this eleven minute video from Novara Media, presenter Aaron Bastani exposes the anti-Labour, anti-socialist bias across BBC news programming. He begins with Brexit, and a radio interview by Sarah Montague of the Beeb’s World at One and Labour’s John Trickett. Trickett talks about how they’ve been to Europe, and suggests changing the red lines and forming a consensus. He is interrupted by Montague, who tells him that May’s deal has been struck, and gives Labour the customs union they want. She asks him why Labour would not support it. Bastani points out that the government is not in favour of a customs union. If they were, the Irish backstop would not be an issue. Does Montague not know this, or is she laying a trap for the opposition when now, more than ever, it is the government that needs to be held to account.

The Beeb’s Emily Barnett asked a simply question of Labour’s Emily Thornberry the same day. Barnett states that the EU have said that it’s May’s deal, and asks her if she has any evidence that they’re open to another deal. Thornberry replies with the letter Labour had written to the EU, with its entirely viable suggestions. Barnett repeats that they aren’t supported by the EU. Thornberry responds by saying that Michel Barnier said that it was an entirely reasonable way they could have negotiations. Bastani points out that Barnett’s assertions aren’t true. Guy Verhofstadt, Michel Barnier and Donald Tusk have all welcomed Labour’s suggestions. Tusk even told May that Corbyn’s plan could break the deadlock.

Bastani states that it isn’t just on radio that there’s bias, where basic facts are not mentioned or denied and where there is a great emphasis to hold Labour to account than the government. He then goes on to discuss the edition of Newsnight on Tuesday, the day before those two radio broadcasts, where presenter Emily Maitlis talked to the Tories’ Nadim Zahawi and Labour’s Barry Gardiner. This was the evening when May’s withdrawal agreement was voted down for the second time, but it looked like there was a tag-team effort between Maitlis and Zahawi against Gardiner. He then plays the clip of Maitlis challenging Gardiner about what will be on Labour’s manifesto. Gardner replies that it will all be discussed by the party, which will decide what will be put in the manifesto. Maitlis rolls her eyes and then she and Zahawi join in joking about how this is ‘chaos’. Bastani says that the eye roll was unprofessional, and states that the Guardian talked about it because it was anti-Labour.  He goes on to describe how Maitlis has form in this. In 2017 she tweeted a question about whether the Labour party still had time to ditch Corbyn. She’s not impartial and, when push comes to shove, doesn’t have much time for democracy. He plays a clip of her asking a guest at one point does democracy become less important than the future prosperity of the country.

Bastani goes on to discuss how the Beeb had a live feed outside parliament during the Brexit vote. This was, at one point, fronted by Andrew Neil, who had as his guests Ann McElroy from the Economist, Julia Hartley-Brewer and Matthew Parris. He submits that this biased panel, followed by Maitlis’ eye roll and the shenanigans the next day by Barnett shows that the Beeb’s current affairs output simply isn’t good enough.

He then moves on to Question Time with its terrible audience and panel selection. He says that there is an issue about right-wing activists not only getting access to the audience, but to the audience question, but on last week’s edition with Owen Jones the rightists asked five questions. Bastani states that the purpose of Question Time is to show what the public thinks beyond the Westminster bubble. But if the audience is infiltrated to such an extent, then what’s the point. He also argues that it isn’t just the audience that’s the problem. You frequently see the panel set up four to one against the left. There may be some centrist figures like the economist Jurgen Meyer, who voted Tory, but in terms of people supporting a broken status quo against socialists, it is anything but a fair fight. And almost always there’ll be a right-wing populist voice on the panel, whether it be Isobel Oakeshott, Nick Ferrari, Julia Hartley-Brewer, and their function is simple. It’s to drag the terms of the debate to the right. You almost never see someone from the left performing the same role.

He goes on to discuss how some people believe that since in 2017 election, the Beeb has recognised some of its failing and tried to correct them. Forty per cent of the electorate is barely represented in our television and our newspapers. Bastani states that he finds the changes so far just cosmetic. You may see the odd Novara editor here and there – and here he means the very able Ash Sarkar – but the scripts, the producers, the news agendas, what is viewed as important, have not changed. This is because they still view Corbynism a blip. They still think, despite Brexit, Trump, the rise of the SNP and transformations in the Labour party and the decay of neoliberalism, that things will go back to normal. This is not going to happen as the economic basis of Blairism – the growth that came out of financialisation and a favourable global economic system and inflated asset prices – was a one-off. This was the basis for centrist policies generally, which is why the shambolic re-run with the Independent Group is bound to fail. And there is also something deeper going on in the Beeb’s failure to portray the Left, its activists and policies accurately. Before 2017 the Beeb found the left a joke. They would have them on to laugh at. In June 2017, for a short period, it looked like it had changed. But now we’ve seen the Beeb and the right close ranks, there is class consciousness amongst the establishment, who recognise the danger that the Left represents. They don’t want them on.

The radical left, says Bastani, has made all of the right calls over the last 15-20 years. You can see that in innumerable videos on social media with Bernie Sanders in the 1980s, Jeremy Corbyn in the Iraq demonstrations in 2003, or even Tony Benn. They got everything right since 2000. They were right on foreign policy, right on the idiocy of Iraq, right about Blairism, as shown by the collapse of 2008. They were right about austerity and about the public at large being profoundly p***ed off. mainstream print and broadcast journalists missed all of this. They want to be proved right on at least one of these things, which means they have a powerful incentive to prevent Corbyn coming to power and creating an economy that’s for the many, not the few. Corbyn represents a threat to Maitlis and her colleagues, because it’s just embarrassing for them to be wrong all the time.

This is a very good analysis of the Beeb’s bias from a Marxist perspective. In Marxism, the economic structure of society determines the superstructure – its politics and culture. So when Blair’s policies of financialisation are in operation and appear to work, Centrism is in vogue. But when that collapses, the mood shifts to the left and centrist policies are doomed to fail. There are many problems with Marxism, and it has had to be considerably revised since Marx’s day, but the analysis offered by Bastani is essentially correct.

The Beeb’s massive right-wing bias is increasingly being recognised and called out. Barry and Savile Kushner describe the pro-austerity bias of the Beeb and media establishment in their book, Who Needs the Cuts? Academics at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities have shown how Conservatives and financiers are twice as like to be asked to comment on the economy on the Beeb as Labour MPs and trade unionists. Zelo Street, amongst many other blogs, like Vox Political, Evolve Politics, the Canary and so on, have described the massive right-wing bias on the Beeb’s news shows, the Daily Politics, Question Time and Newsnight. And Gordon Dimmack posted a video last week of John Cleese showing Maitlis how, out of 33 European countries polled, Britain ranked 33rd in its trust of the press and media, with only 23 per cent of Brits saying they trusted them. Now that 23 per cent no doubt includes the nutters, who believe that the Beeb really is left-wing and there is a secret plan by the Jews to import Blacks and Asians to destroy the White race and prevent Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson getting elected. But even so, this shows a massive crisis in the journalistic establishment. A crisis which Maitlis, Bruce, Barnett, Montague, Kuensberg, Robinson, Pienaar, Humphries and the rest of them aren’t helping by repeating the same tired tactics of favouring the Tories over the left.

They discrediting the Beeb. And it’s becoming very clear to everyone.

Blairite MP Siobhain Mcdonagh Claims Anti-Capitalists Anti-Semitic

March 5, 2019

The Nye Bevan News blog reported yesterday that Blairite Labour MP Siobhain Mcdonagh had appeared on Radio 4 that morning, 4th March 2019, and told presenter John Humphreys that the anti-capitalists in the Labour party were anti-Semitic. Humphrey had asked her if the party was taking anti-Semitism seriously. She replied

I’m not sure that some people in the Labour party can, because it’s very much part of their politics – of hard left politics – to be against capitalists, and to see Jewish people as the financers of capital.

Humphreys then asked her if you had to be anti-Semitic to be anti-capitalist. She replied

Yes. Not everybody, but absolutely, there’s a certain strand of it and these people are not Labour, have never been Labour but we now find them in our party.

Humphreys then asked her if they didn’t become Labour when they joined the party. To which she gave the following answer

Not as far as I see it. I believe that the Labour party has a very strong set of values related to how we see society should be run and about being anti-racist, which they cannot be part of. 

The MP went on talk about Jenny Formby not releasing the figures for anti-Semitic incidents in the Labour party, although the Nye Bevan News blog notes that Formby had actually done so some time ago. She also criticised Formby for saying she reported to the NEC, not Labour MPs, and praised Tom Watson for wanting to interfere with the process, despite them being against data protection rules.

The article concluded:

It is clearly very problematic and actually borders upon anti-semitism in itself to immediately make the association between Jewish people and banking/financing – repeating an anti-semitic trope on national radio is appalling.

See: https://nyebevannews.co.uk/labour-mp-siobhain-mcdonagh-to-be-anti-capitalism-is-to-be-anti-semitic/

Martin Odoni, a Jewish Labour party member and dedicated anti-racist, is in absolutely no doubt that Mcdonagh’s comments were anti-Semitic. He posted a template email on his website requesting Jenny Formby suspend Mcdonagh pending a full investigation. He points out that not only would many Jews find the implication of her claim that anti-capitalism is anti-Semitic, that Jews are therefore bourgois and capitalistic, not just offensive but also anti-Semitic under the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism that the party has adopted. She is also to be suspended because her endorsement of Watson’s demands to see personal information in order to interfere in anti-Semitism cases, which contravenes data protection laws, is therefore solicitation to commit a criminal act.

See: https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/suspend-siobhan-mcdonagh-from-the-labour-party-with-immediate-effect-template/

Now it’s true that you can find examples of disgusting anti-Semitism in the views of leading socialists, communists and anarchists from Marx onwards. But the view that Jews equal capitalism, and particularly financial capitalism isn’t the view of socialists and anti-capitalists, but that of fascists and Nazis. The ideology George Orwell described as ‘the socialism of fools’. But the smear that socialism and anti-capitalism is innately anti-Semitic is that of the transatlantic extreme right in books such as Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. It is also being pushed by the Republicans in America and the Tories over here as a means of defending the super-rich one per cent from criticism. This is the section of predominantly western society that own capital and industry, and who demand the policies of privatisation, welfare cuts, job insecurity and the reduction of the tax burden on them that are causing so much misery and poverty across the world. But for the right, criticism of the one per cent is absolutely forbidden. It’s anti-Semitic, you see, because of the way the Nazis equated the Jews with the rich and finance capitalism. But when socialists, communists, anarchists and other anti-capitalists, as well as genuine liberals, talk about the 1 per cent and their destructive policies, they mean the global elite regardless of colour, race or religious affiliation. They do not mean ‘Jews’.

It’s the same tactics the right used to try to defend bankers from criticism a few years ago, when they were all giving themselves massive bonuses after the crash at the expense of the rest of us, who had to bail them out. They used the same tactic, saying that if you were criticising the bankers and demanding their punishment, you were a Nazi. Because Jews equal bankers to anti-Semites. But again, only Nazis and Fascists equate Jews with banking, and the left-wingers demanding punishment for bankers were demanding it for those, who had caused the crash, regardless of their race or religion.

Mcdonagh is clearly, at heart, a Red Tory, who has taken over these views, and is desperately keen to preserve the present, corrupt system and its enrichment of the few at the cost of the impoverishment of the many.

She’s also at the same time pushing the lie that Blair and his followers represent the real Labour party and those further to the left are communist or Trotskyite entryists. But it was Blair, who was the real entryist. He was a Thatcherite, who removed Labour’s commitment to socialism and was determined to follow Thatcher’s agenda of privatisation, destruction of the welfare state and creating a fluid Labour market. Which meant creating job insecurity. Traditional Labour party members, who wanted a genuinely mixed economy, we forced out of positions of leadership in the party. Many ordinary members left. Corbyn, with his policies of nationalising the utilities, renationalising the NHS, restoring trade union power and extending workers’ rights, represents solid traditional Labour party values. They values and policies that gave us thirty years of growth and prosperity after the War.

And then there’s her views of Labour party anti-racism. Well, Tony Benn was genuinely one of the most anti-racist MPs, giving his wholehearted support to the boycott of Bristol Bus Company by Black Bristolians because of its refusal to employ non-Whites. And he was a staunch advocate of a mixed economy, industrial democracy, trade unions and everything that Mcdonagh, as a Blairite, fears and despises. As is Ken Livingstone, whose leadership of the GLC was reviled and hated by the Tories as a centre of ‘political correctness’. The campaign against racism by Labour party members began long before Blair took over.

And as for the Blairites’ own attitudes towards racism, Tony Greenstein has pointed out their hypocrisy in a post on his blog this morning. He contrasted Watson’s and the others’ screams about supposed anti-Semitism with their total indifference over May’s victimisation of immigrants and the deportation of the Windrush migrants and their children.

As a Blairite, Mcdonagh is just another disloyal intriguer smearing those who really stand for traditional Labour values and real anti-racism – not just against the hatred and persecution of Jews, but also against that of Blacks, Asians and particularly Muslims. Her claim that anti-capitalism is identical with anti-Semitism is nothing but an attempt to defend the exploitative rich against those who want real change. She should apologise immediately, or reconsider her position in the party.

The Discreet, Poisonous Corporatism of the Labour Party Quitters

February 19, 2019

Yesterday, a group of seven MPs formally split from the Labour party. Now going independent, this glittering array of third raters, has-beens and deadbeats were supposed to form the nucleus of this new, shiny Blairite ‘centrist’ party that has been mooted for the past year or so. The group included such luminaries as Gavin Shuker, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey. They were all Blairites, who had been trying to overthrow Corbyn or undermine his leadership since he was elected head of the party. Or else had been threatening to quit.

Comparisons have been made to the Labour split in the 1980s which saw the notorious ‘gang of four’, including Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams form the short-lived Social Democratic Party. They ended up shortly forming an alliance with the Liberals before finally merging with them to form the Liberal Democrats. At the time there much verbiage in the press about the SDP ‘breaking the mould’ of British politics. It didn’t happen, despite the TV critic Clive James in his Observer column sneering at Tony Benn, who said that support for the SDP had peaked. But, as Zelo Street has pointed out, the comparison also doesn’t do the Quitters any favours in another way. Some of the MPs, who formed the SDP were actually first rate politicos. As Home Secretary in the 1960s, Roy Jenkins oversaw some profound changes in the liberalization of British society. Like the partial decriminalization of homosexuality, for which, among other things, he’s still bitterly resented by the Tory right today. Reading Shirley William’s 1979 book, Politics Is For People, it’s clear that she did have a powerful mind with strong, distinct views on how socialism should improve British society and industry.

This bunch, by contrast, don’t seem to have any distinct views or anything more to offer than rehashed, warmed up Blairism. Before their website crashed yesterday, Zelo Street was able to get on it and read what they had to say. Which seemed to be a lot of flannel. More fine-sounding words about democracy which didn’t actually come down to meaning very much. The website said

Our primary duty as Members of Parliament is to put the best interests of our constituents and our country first. Our free media, the rule of law, and our open, tolerant and respectful democratic society should be cherished and renewed. We believe that our Parliamentary democracy in which our elected representatives deliberate, decide and provide leadership, held accountable by their whole electorate is the best system of representing the views of the British people. Zelo Street remarked that the first part of this statement, about cherishing and renewing free media, rule of law and democratic society doesn’t actually mean anything, while the second – about parliamentary democracy being the best method of representing the views of the British people – is just what every MP in the House believes.

But what the group really stands for is best shown by the group’s legal organization and its members’ very cosy relationship with private enterprise. The group’s website was set up in 2015 in a tax haven. The new party actually isn’t a party. It’s been registered as a private corporation, Gemini A, which means that it doesn’t have to identify its backers. This also, apparently, makes it exempt from the spending restrictions on campaigning which apply to genuine political parties.

And then there’s Angela ‘People of funny tin…’ Smith’s connection with private water companies. Smith is chairman of the all-party water group, which is mainly funded by private water companies like Wessex Water and Affinity Water. Talking to Smith on This Morning Yesterday, Ash Sarkar pointed out that her group were some of the very few people left, who still believe in water privatization. She predicted that people would like at Smith’s leadership of the group and say, ‘You know what, that stinks of corruption’.

Sarkar isn’t going to be wrong either. The Canary in their article on this pointed out that 83 per cent of the population want the water companies to be renationalized. And Blair’s very strong links to private industry were very heavily criticized when he was power. Blair was a corporatist, who gave business leaders and senior management key positions in government in exchange for donations. This whole, nasty web of corporate links was exposed by the Groaniad’s George Monbiot in his book, Captive State, which lists various businessmen and the government positions Blair gave them. Even at the time Blair’s government was notorious for doing political favours in return for donations, as Blair did for Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One magnate, in return for something like a million pounds of corporate dosh.

‘Bevan Boy’ described what other Blairite policies this crew probably also stand for in this tweet, quoting by Mike in his article on them:

What will this new “Centrist” party stand for?
More Austerity?
Rampant marketisation & uncontrolled capitalism?
Neoconservative Thatcherism?
I suspect all of the above under a pro EU banner. The policies are being rejected & thank Christ they are.
We need a socialist LAB govt!

And what the splitters really think of democracy is shown by the fact that none of them actually want to hold a bye-election and give their constituents a say in whether they want them to represent them in parliament. It’s been pointed out that only one per cent of voters say that they actually vote for the individual MP, rather than the party. But these avowed democrats really don’t want to give their constituents the opportunity to decide whether they want to keep them as their MP or whether they want to elect someone else.

Which is what you could expect from a group that includes Luciana Berger. Berger, or should that be Lucrezia Borgia?, was facing a vote of no confidence from her local constituency. She then declared that they were bullying her, and demanded Jenny Formby expel the constituency party from Labour. Formby told her that she had no cause to do this and refused.

But Borgia, sorry, Berger, has carried on whining about bullying and intimidation nonetheless. Just as all the Quitters have moaned about anti-Semitism. The truth is, anti-Semitism is not the reason they’re splitting. It never has been. It has only been a convenient stick with which to beat Corbyn and his supporters. In fact anti-Semitism in the party has fallen under the Labour leader. It is lower in the Labour party than in the others and in the general British population. And the anti-Semitism accusations against him and the majority of those accused are nothing but contrived smears.

The real truth is that Berger, Umunna, Shuker, Leslie, Smith, Coffee and Gapes are corporatist anti-democrats. They wish to hang on to power against the wishes of their constituents, in order to promote the power of private corporations. Just as Mussolini and Hitler promoted private industry and gave it a seat in government and the management of the economy in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

For further information, see:
https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/18/mps-split-off-from-the-labour-party-voters-say-good-riddance/

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/18/mps-split-off-from-the-labour-party-voters-say-good-riddance/

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-independent-group-on-way-out.html

https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2019/02/18/ash-sarkar-takes-down-a-resigning-blairite-mp-so-brutally-a-bbc-host-intervenes/

Labour Complaints Unit Fine With MP Wes Streeting Smearing and Doxing Party Member

February 11, 2019

Now that Tweezer is floundering about trying to keep herself and her wretched party from sinking on the black rocks of Brexit, they, the Blairites and the Israel lobby both within and outside the Labour party have taken to repeating the anti-Semitism. One of those who decided that he was going to try to whip up the witch hunt there again was Wes Streeting, who took it upon himself to dox and smear a 70-year old woman using a fabricated image on twitter.

Doxing is publishing someone’s name and personal details, like their address, on the internet without their consent. It’s against Twitter’s rules and is very dangerous. People have been personally threatened, attacked and their homes vandalized through others maliciously putting their personal details on the internet. In this case, Streeting decided he was going to dox Annie W-B because he’d decided that she’d dismissed anti-Semitism as a smear. He tweeted

Meet Ann . Ann dismisses anti-Semitism as a smear and says that hatred is being perpetrated by Emily [Benn] and Luciana [Berger] against innocent people who have never in their lives been anti-Semitic’.

He then goes to say ‘Let’s take a look in her back catalogue’.

But the tweet he was referring to did not dismiss anti-Semitism as a smear. It only dismissed the witch hunt against innocent people in the Labour for alleged anti-Semitism as a smear. Ann W-B actually posted this tweet, replying to Emily Benn raving about how brave Luciana Berger had been for standing up to anti-Semitism.

Oh please go away. Luciana Berger has done everything she possibly can to smear Mr Corbyn & over 500k members. #EnoughisEnough of the cost hatred being perpetuated by you and others towards innocent people who have never in their lives been antisemitic.

That these accusations are nothing but baseless lies and smears is amply shown by some of the very upstanding people, who have been accused. People like former Momentum Vice-President Jackie Walker, a Jewish woman of colour and civil rights activist; Marc Wadsworth, a Black anti-racism activist, who campaigned with the Board of Deputies of British Jews against anti-Semitic assaults by the BNP in the 1980s; Cyril Chilson, a former member of the IDF and the son of a Holocaust survivor and a heroic Russian Jewish airman; Ken Livingstone, who has always been notorious for his opposition to racism and the recruitment of real, genuine Nazis by the British secret state; Tony Greenstein, a Jewish anti-racism activist and campaigner. Because he campaigns against Zionism for the good reason that it is just another form of apartheid and Fascism. Tony Odoni, another Jewish anti-racist, for the same reason. And, of course, Mike, for defending Livingstone and Walker.

Then Streeting moved on to smearing Annie W-B with a doctored image. She was shown tweeting her approval of an image posted on Twitter by another person, which contained a spurious quote from Voltaire ‘To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize’. This was next to a giant hand coming down crushing a group of people. On its sleeve is a Magen David, a Star of David. Mike points out that the quote doesn’t actually come from Voltaire. It comes from an American Nazi and Holocaust-Denier Kevin Alfred Storm. As for the image, it has a variety of forms in which the symbol on the sleeve differs. In its most common form, there is no symbol. It’s possible that Annie W-B may have genuinely believed the quote was from Voltaire. I’ve come across it several times, and until Mike’s article did not know who was really responsible for it. Mike suggests other Labour members and supporters may have been tricked into liking it because of its similarity to Tony Benn’s ‘Five Essential Questions of Democracy’, which as Mike says, are ‘What power have you got? Where did you get it? In whose interests do you use it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?’ And the dodgy quote does look like something Voltaire would say as an Enlightenment philosopher and defender of free speech against institutional religion and absolute monarchy.

He also decided that she had to be an anti-Semite because she had also posted a series of comments attacking the Rothschilds. Mike says of this

Interesting subject, the Rothschilds: A hugely wealthy and influential business/banking organisation that is apparently immune from investigation under any circumstances because those questioning its actions may always be accused of anti-Semitism. Does anybody – apart from a witch-hunter – think that is reasonable? We can see that Mr Streeting does, but then, he stands with the witch-hunters.

And the family has immense personal power. Last year one of the continental members of the family appeared in a very brief article in the I. It reported that this man was having the indigenous people in one region of Zaire cleared out of their homes in order to make it his personal hunting preserve. It’s because of its wealth and power that the Rothschilds feature in many of the Nazi conspiracy theories about Jews, Freemasons and the Illuminati plotting the downfall of the White race. But they also have a very sordid past. They lent money to the Third Reich, even when it was known that the Nazis were persecuting and exterminating the Jews. But because the Rothschilds themselves are the subjects of so many conspiracy theories, any person asking serious questions about their influence and power is automatically tarred as an anti-Semite themselves.

The peeps on Twitter immediately pointed out to Streeting that what he had done to Annie W-B was wrong. Not only had he published her name, but it, and the story, had been picked up by BBC news. This was far too far, and they began writing complaints to the Labour party about Streeting, with one person stating it was a sackable offence. Unbelievably, the complaints team said that Streeting’s actions did not contravene Labour policy. Which made them all the more determined to press their complaints and escalate it.

As for Streeting, he then went off and attacked Mike for being an anti-Semite using the old, and now absolutely discredited Sunday Times article. Which left Mike demanding that, if it was an attempt to smear him, he wanted an apology.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/06/police-investigation-threat-for-mp-over-faked-anti-semitic-image-and-doxxing/

The controversy continued when Jenny Formby got involved. She was upset that Streeting was being ‘tried by twitter’ and so asked everyone to send their complaints into the Labour party’s Compliance Unit instead, so that they could all move on to attacking the Tories. She was then bitterly attacked in her turn by angry Labour party supporters, furious that the Blairites were able to smear and bully ordinary party members as they pleased without Formby or anyone else for that matter taking any kind of disciplinary action. As proof of this, Mike cited the example of one individual, who was thrown out for liking the music of the Foo Fighters, while Streeting himself went unpunished for what should have been a disciplinary offence. Some people stated that it was high time the Blairites were kicked out of the party. The sheer number of complaints about their behaviour on Twitter showed how deeply unpopular the various right-wing members of the Parliamentary Labour Party are. Finally, to show just how unfair the system is, Mike put up the case of Karen, a Labour party member, who told Formby that when she sent in a complaint against Tweeting, one of his little minions reported her in turn for ‘bullying’. Mike asked if Karen was also going to be penalized.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/07/formby-asked-and-labour-answered-reform-labours-complaints-system-but-will-she-listen/

You can understand why Formby doesn’t want a fuss kicked up about Streeting, or any of the other Blairites and supporters of the Israeli apartheid state. They’re actually a tiny minority in the party, but they have the full support of a deeply biased right-wing media. Whenever they are even lightly embarrassed or taken to task, their immediate response is to whine about how they’re being bullied by evil Trotskyites, Stalinists, Communists and anti-Semites. As Joan Ryan did after she lost her local party’s vote of ‘No Confidence’. And these lies are automatically retailed as absolute truth by the Beeb and everyone else.

But time is not on their side. They are only a minority and the strength of the response to Streeting’s smears and doxing, and Formby’s attempts to hush it all up, show how much ordinary party members have lost patience with them. And it is becoming glaringly clear to an increasing number of people outside the party that people like Streeting do not represent the real heart of the Labour party, and that their smears and accusations of anti-Semitism are nothing but grotesque lies. As for their own threats and bullying, it’s high time the leadership stood up to them and called them out on it. That would have saved a lot of grief if it had been done at the very start, no matter how hard they may have whined and moaned in response.

Book on Industrial Democracy in Great Britain

January 12, 2019

Ken Coates and Anthony Topham, Industrial Democracy In Great Britain: A Book of Readings and Witnesses for Workers Control (MacGibbon & Kee, 1968).

This is another book I got through the post the other day. It’s a secondhand copy, but there may also be newer editions of the book out there. As its subtitle says, it’s a sourcebook of extracts from books, pamphlets, and magazine and newspaper articles on workers’ control, from the Syndicalists and Guild Socialists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, through the First World War, the General Strike and the interwar period, the demands for worker participation in management during the Second World War and in the industries nationalized by Clement Attlee’s 1945 Labour government. It also covers the industrial disputes of the 1950s and ’60s, including the mass mobilization of local trade unions in support of four victimized workers evicted from the homes by management and the Tories. These later extracts also include documents from the workers’ control movements amongst the bus workers and dockers, establishing works councils and laying out their structure, duties and operating procedure.

The book’s blurb reads

The issue of workers’ control in British industry is once more n the air. As a concept, as something still to be achieved, industrial democracy has a long and rich history in fields outside the usual political arenas. The newly-awakened movement that revives the wish to see workers given a voice in business affairs is, in this book, given its essential historical perspective. From the days of ‘wage-slavery’ we might at last be moving into a period of fully-responsible control of industry by those who make the wealth in this country. While this notion has generally been scoffed at – by working class Tories as much as members of the capitalist groups – there is now a formidable body of evidence and thought to give it substance and weight.

The editors’ theme is treated in four main sections: the first covers the years from 1900 to 1920, when people like Tom Mann, James Connolly, G.D.H. Cole were re-discovering ideas of syndicalism, industrial unionism, guild socialism and so on. The second traces the development of the shop stewards’ movement on the shop floors. Much of this material is especially interesting so far as the period 1941 – 45 is concerned. Section three deals with the nationalized industries’ relations to unions, and here the centre of interest lies in the relations between the unions and Herbert Morrison in the thirties and beyond. The last section deals with the re-invigorated growth of the post-war efforts to establish some form of workers’ control. It is the conviction of their editors that the movement they document so thoroughly has only just begun to develop seriously and it is therefore something that both business and political parties will have to take increasing account of. The book is both anthology and guide to one of the important issues of our time.

After the introduction, it has the following contents.

Section 1: Schools for Democrats
Chapter 1: Forerunners of the Ferment

1 Working Class Socialism: E.J.B. Allen
2. Industrial Unionism and Constructive Socialism: James Connolly
3. The Miners’ Next Step: Reform Committee of the South Wales Miners, 1912
4. Limits of Collective Bargaining: Fred Knee
5. Forging the Weapon: Tom Mann
6. The Servile State: Hilaire Belloc
7. Pluralist Doctrine: J.N. Figgis
8. The Spiritual Change: A.J. Penty
9. The Streams Merge?: M.B. Reckitt and C.E. Bechofer
10. Little Groups Spring Up: Thomas Bell

Chapter 2. Doctrines and Practice of the Guild Socialists

1.The Bondage of Wagery: S.G. Hobson and A.R. Orage
2. State and Municipal Wagery: S.G. Hobson and A.R. Orage
3. Collectivism, Syndicalism and Guilds: G.D.H. Cole
4 Industrial Sabotage: William Mellor
5 The Building Guilds: M.B. Reckitt and C.E. Bechhofer
6 Builders’ Guilds: A Second view: Raymond Postgate

Chapter 3 How Official Labour met the Guild Threat

1 Democracies of Producers: Sydney and Beatrice Webb
2 ‘… In no Utopian Spirit’: J. Ramsay MacDonald

Chapter 4 Eclipse of the Guilds and the Rise of Communism

1 In Retrospect: G.D.H. Cole
2 Revolution and Trade Union Action: J.T. Murphy
3 Action for Red Trade Unions: Third Comintern Congress, 1921

Section II: Shop Stewards and Workers’ Control; 1910-64

Chapter 1 1910-26

1 Shop Stewards in Engineering: the Forerunners: H.A. Clegg, Alan Fox, and E.F. Thompson
2 The Singer Factory: The Wobblies’ First Base: Thomas Bell
3 A Nucleus of Discontent: Henry Pelling
4 The Sheffield Shop Stewards: J.T. Murphy
5 The Workers’ Committee: J.T. Murphy
6 The Collective Contract: W. Gallacher and J. Paton
7 Politics in the Workshop Movement: G.D.H. Cole
8 The Shop Stewards’ Rules: N.S.S. & W.C.M.
9 The Dangers of Revolution: Parliamentary Debates H. of C.
10 What Happened at Leeds: the Leeds Convention 1917
11 A Shop Stewards’ Conference: Thomas Bell
12 After the War: Dr B. Pribicevic
13 An Assessment: Dr B. Pribicevic
14 Prelude to Unemployed Struggles: Wal Hannington
15 Defeat; The 1922 Lock-out: James B. Jefferys
16 Shop Stewards on the Streets: J.T. Murphy
17 T.U.C. Aims: T.U.C. Annual Report 1925
18 ‘The Death Gasp of that Pernicious Doctrine’: Beatrice Webb

Chapter 2 1935-47

1 ‘… The Shop Stewards’ Movement will Re-Appear’: G.D.H. Cole
2 Revival; The English Aircraft Strike: Tom Roberts
3 London Metal Workers and the Communists: John Mahon
4 The Communists’ Industrial Policy: CPGB 14th Congress, 1937
5 ‘… A Strong Left Current’; John Mahon
6 Shop Stewards against Government and War: National Shop-Stewards’ Conference, 1940
7 The A.E.U. and the Shop Stewards’ Movement: Wal Hannington
8 For Maximum Production: Walter Swanson and Douglas Hyde
9 Joint Production Committees: Len Powell
10 The Employers Respond: Engineering Employers’ Federation
11 How to get the Best Results: E & A.T.S.S.N.C.
12 The Purpose of the Joint Production Committees: G.S. Walpole
13 A Dissident Complaint: Anarchist Federation of Glasgow, 1945
14 The Transformation of Birmingham: Bert Williams
15 Factory Committees; Post-War Aims: J.R. Campbell
16 After the Election: Reg Birch
17 Official View of Production Committees: Industrial Relations Handbook
18 Helping the Production Drive: Communist Party of Great Britain

Chapter 3 1951-63

1 Post-war Growth of Shop Stewards in Engineering: A.T. Marsh and E.E. Coker
2 Shop-Steward Survey: H.A. Clegg, A.J. Killick and Rex Adams
3 The Causes of Strikes: Trades Union Congress
4 The Trend of Strikes: H.A. Turner
5 Shop-Stewards and Joint Consultation: B.C. Roberts
6 Joint Consultation and the Unions: Transport and General Workers’ Union
7 Strengths of Shop-Steward Organisation: H.M.S.O.
8 Activities of Shop-Stewards: H.M.S.O.
9 Local Bargaining and Wages Drift: Shirley Lerner and Judith Marquand
10 The Motor Vehicle Industrial Group and Shop-Stewards’ Combine Committees: Shirley Lerner and Judith Marquand
11. Ford Management’s view of Management: H.M.S.O.
12. The Bata Story: Malcolm MacEwen
13 Fight against Redundancy: Harry Finch
14 How They Work the Trick: Ford Shop Stewards
15 I work at Fords: Brian Jefferys
16 The Origins of Fawley: Allan Flanders
17 Controlling the Urge to Control: Tony Topham

Section III: Industrial Democracy and Nationalization

Chapter 1 1910-22

1 State Ownership and Control: G.D.H. Cole
2 Towards a Miner’s Guild: National Guilds League
3 Nationalization of the Mines: Frank Hodges
4 Towards a National Railway Guild: National Guilds League
5 Workers’ Control on the Railways: Dr B. Pribicevic
6 The Railways Act, 1921: Philip Bagwell

Chapter 2 1930-35

1 A Re-Appraisal: G.D.H. Cole
2 A works Council Law: G.D.H. Cole
3 A Fabian Model for Workers’ Representation: G.D.H. Cole and W. Mellor
4 Herbert Morrison’s Case: Herbert Morrison
5 The Soviet Example: Herbert Morrison
6 The T.U.C. Congress, 1932: Trades Union Congress
7 The Labour Party Conference, 19332: The Labour Party
8 The T.U.C. Congress, 1933: Trades Union Congress
9 The Labour Party Conference, 1933: The Labour Party
10 The Agreed Formula: The Labour Party

Chapter 3 1935-55

1 The Labour Party in Power: Robert Dahl
2 The Coal Nationalization Act: W.W. Haynes
3 George Brown’s Anxieties: Parliamentary Debates H. of C.
4 Cripps and the Workers: The Times
5 Trade Union Officials and the Coal Board: Abe Moffatt
6 Acceptance of the Public Corporation: R. Page Arnot
7 No Demands from the Communists: Emmanuel Shinwell
8 We Demand Workers’ Representation: Harry Pollitt
9 The N.U.R. and Workers’ Control: Philip Bagwell
10 The Trade Unions take Sides: Eirene Hite
11 Demands for the Steel Industry: The Labour Party
12 The A.E.U. Briefs its Members: Amalgamated Engineering Union
13 Making Joint Consultation Effective: The New Statesman
14 ‘Out-of-Date Ideas’: Trades Union Congress
15 A Further Demand for Participation: The Labour Party

Chapter 4 1955-64

1 Storm Signals: Clive Jenkins
2 The Democratization of Power: New Left Review
3 To Whom are Managers Responsible?: New Left Review
4 Accountability and Participation: John Hughes
5 A 1964 Review: Michael Barratt-Brown

Section IV: The New Movement: Contemporary Writings on Industrial Democracy

Chapter 1 The New Movement: 1964-67

1 A Retreat: H.A. Clegg
2 ‘We Must Align with the Technological Necessities…’ C.A.R. Crosland
3 A Response: Royden Harrison
4 Definitions: Workers’ Control and Self-Management: Ken Coates
5 The New Movement: Ken Coates
6 The Process of Decision: Trades Union Congress
7 Economic Planning and Wages: Trades Union Congress
8 Seeking a Bigger Say at Work: Sydney Hill
9 A Plan for a Break-through in Production: Jack Jones
10 A Comment on Jack Jones’ Plan: Tony Topham
11 Open the Books: Ken Coates
12 Incomes Policy and Control: Dave Lambert
13 Watch-dogs for Nationalized Industries: Hull LEFT
14 Revival in the Coal Industry: National Union of Mineworkers
15 Workers’ Control in Nationalized Steel Industry: The Week
16 Workers’ Control in the Docks: The Dockers’ Next Step: The Week
17 The Daily Mail Takes Notes: The Daily Mail
18 Labour’s Plan for the Docks: The Labour Party
19 Municipal Services: Jack Ashwell
20 The Party Programme: The Labour Party
21 Open the Shipowners’ Books!: John Prescott and Charlie Hodgins
22 A Socialist Policy for the Unions. May Day Manifesto

The book appropriately ends with a conclusion.

The book is clearly a comprehensive, encyclopedic treatment of the issue of workers’ control primarily, but not exclusively, from the thinkers and workers who demanded and agitated for it, and who occasionally succeeded in achieving it or at least a significant degree of worker participation in management. As the book was published in 1968, it omits the great experiments in worker’s control and management of the 1970s, like the Bullock Report, the 1971 work-in at the shipbuilders in the Upper Clyde, and the worker’s co-ops at the Scottish Daily News, Triumph of Meriden, Fisher Bendix in Kirkby, and at the British Aircraft Company in Bristol.

This was, of course, largely a period where the trade unions were growing and had the strength, if not to achieve their demands, then at least to make them be taken seriously, although there were also serious setbacks. Like the collapse of the 1922 General Strike, which effectively ended syndicalism in Great Britain as a mass movement. Since Thatcher’s victory in 1979 union power has been gravely diminished and the power of management massively increased. The result of this has been the erosion of workers’ rights, so that millions of British workers are now stuck in poorly paid, insecure jobs with no holiday, sickness or maternity leave. We desperately need this situation to be reversed, to go back to the situation where working people can enjoy secure, properly-paid jobs, with full employments rights, protected by strong unions.

The Tories are keen to blame the unions for Britain’s industrial decline, pointing to the disruption caused by strikes, particularly in the industrial chaos of the 1970s. Tory propaganda claims that these strikes were caused by irresponsible militants against the wishes of the majority of working people. You can see this view in British films of the period like Ealing’s I’m All Right Jack, in which Peter Sellars played a Communist union leader, and one of the Carry On films set in a toilet factory, as well as the ’70s TV comedy, The Rag Trade. This also featured a female shop-steward, who was all too ready to cry ‘Everybody out!’ at every perceived insult or infraction of agreed conditions by management. But many of the pieces included here show that these strikes were anything but irresponsible. They were a response to real exploitation, bullying and appalling conditions. The extracts dealing with the Ford works particularly show this. Among the incidents that provoked the strike were cases where workers were threatened by management and foremen for taking time off for perfectly good reasons. One worker taken to task by his foreman for this had done so in order to take his sick son to hospital.

The book shows that workers’ control has been an issue for parts of the labour movement since the late nineteenth century, before such radicalism because associated with the Communists. They also show that, in very many cases, workers have shown themselves capable of managing their firms.

There are problems with it, nevertheless. There are technical issues about the relative representation of unions in multi-union factories. Tony Benn was great champion of industrial democracy, but in his book Arguments for Socialism he argues that it can only be set up when the workers’ in a particular firm actually want, and that it should be properly linked to a strong union movement. He also attacks token concessions to the principle, like schemes in which only one workers’ representative is elected to the board, or works’ councils which have no real power and are outside trade union control or influence.

People are becoming increasingly sick and angry of the Tories’ and New Labour impoverishment and disenfranchisement of the working class. Jeremy Corbyn has promised working people full employment and trade union rights from the first day of their employment, and to put workers in the boardroom of the major industries. We desperately need these policies to reverse the past forty years of Thatcherism, and to bring real dignity and prosperity to working people. After decades of neglect, industrial democracy is back on the table by a party leadership that really believes in it. Unlike May and the Tories when they made it part of their elections promises back in 2017.

We need the Tories out and Corbyn in government. Now. And for at least some of the industrial democracy workers have demanded since the Victorian age.

Tony Benn on ‘Spycatcher’ and the Wilson Smears

January 8, 2019

Tony Benn was a passionate defender of civil liberties and an advocate of expanding democracy further against the attempts of the establishment to limit it. He was therefore a critic of Britain’s intelligence agencies and their repeated attempts to destabilise and undermine the left. The publication of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher in the ’80s caused massive controversy, because of its description of the activities by them. Thatcher invoked the Official Secrets Act to suppress its publication in Britain, but it was freely available elsewhere in the world. In his 1988 book, Fighting Back, Benn discusses the book and its revelations about just what the CIA and MI5 were up to, including their smears against the former Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson.

Among the pieces Benn quotes and discusses was Wright’s statement that MI5 bugged and burgled their way across London on behalf of the state, while civil servants looked the other way;

that during the Suez crisis, MI6 planned to assassinate Nasser using nerve gas;

that James Angleton, the head of the CIA, wanted to expand their London station and infiltrate and absorb MI5 completely;

that the intelligence agencies had always taken information from peoples’ national insurance files, and were setting up a computer link to do the same;

and that Angleton believed that Wilson was a Soviet agent, based on an anonymous Soviet source. (Benn, Fighting Back, pp. 237-8).

He then goes on to quote Wright on how MI5 was plotting to smear Wilson from the end of the Heath government. Wright wrote

As events moved to their political climax in early 1974, with the election of the minority Labour Government, MI5 was sitting on information, which, if leaked, would undoubtedly have caused a political scandal of incalculable consequences. The news that the Prime Minister himself was being investigated would at the least have led to his resignation. The point was not lost on some MI5 officers.

Wright continued on page 369 of his wretched book

The plan was simple. In the run-up to the election which, given the level of instability in Parliament, must be due within a matter of months, MI5 would arrange for selective details of the intelligence about leading Labour Party figures, but especially Wilson, to be leaked to sympathetic pressmen. Using our contacts in the press and among union officials, word of the material contained in MI5 files, and the fact that Wilson was considered a security risk would be passed around. Soundings had already been taken, and up to thirty officers had given their approval to the scheme. Facsimile copies of some files were to be made and distributed to overseas newspapers, and the matter was to be raised in Parliament for maximum effect. It was a carbon copy of the Zinoviev letter, which had done so much to destroy the first Ramsay MacDonald Government in 1928. [sic] ‘We’ll have him out’ said one of them. ‘this time we’ll have him out.’ Shortly afterwards Wilson resigned. As we always used to say in the office ‘Politicians may come and go, but the security service goes on forever. (Both quotations in Benn, p. 238).

Benn then went on to say about these revelations that

If any of them are true MI5 officers were incited to break the law, have broken the law, did attempt, with CIA help, to destroy an elected government, and any responsible Prime Minister should have instructed the police to investigate, with a view to prosecution, and the Courts should have convicted and sentenced those found guilty. The charge which the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor, the Law Officers, the Police, have to face is that they have all betrayed their public trust, and the judges who have upheld them are in clear breach of the Bill of Rights of 1689. For if ministers can arbitrarily suspend the law, and claim that issues of confidentiality, or national security, justify a ban on publication; and if the judges issue an injunction, there could be no limit to the suppression of any information which might embarrass any government. (Benn, p. 239).

The Wilson smears have again become relevant after the recent revelations from the Anonymous hacking group, which the government admitted following a question by Labour minister Chris Williamson, that the Tory government was funding a private company, the Institute for Statecraft, to publish anti-Putin propaganda on the internet as part of its programme, the Integrity Initiative. This propaganda included smearing European and American politicians and officials, who were held to be to close to Putin. And so they smeared Jeremy Corbyn, just as the press a little while ago also tried smearing him as a Czech spy. Investigation has shown that the Institute for Statecraft and the Integrity Initiative uses staff from MI5 and the army’s internet counterintelligence units, to the point where journalists investigating it have described it as a British intelligence cut-out.

It is over forty years since Harold Wilson left office, but the British intelligence services are back up to their old tricks of smearing Labour leaders as Russian agents. Benn wanted legislation put in place to make the British secret state fully accountable to parliament. The British conspiracy magazine, Lobster, has making the same argument since its foundation in the 1980s.

Benn and Lobster are right. Our intelligence agencies are out of control, and a danger to democracy.

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.