Posts Tagged ‘Trams’

Max Beer on the Depression of the Lower Middle Classes by Big Business

August 28, 2016

I found this passage in Max Beer’s two volume book, A History of British Socialism, in volume 2, page 347. It’s part of a long discussion on how the early Labour party was assisted in its rise because of the way the working class and the lower middle class found themselves under similar attack and allied themselves against attempts by big business to reduce their independence and grind them into subservience. Beer’s book was published in Britain in 1920, but this passage could describe the situation of millions of office workers, sales assistants and small shopkeepers today. And especially the latter. I’ve already blogged about the way the predatory supermarkets are driving the small businesspeople into bankruptcy, and in so doing pushing up unemployment. In this passage, Beer talks about how the shopkeepers of his time were under attack from the department stores. He writes

In commerce and finance a similar process has come into operation. The wholesale traders are reducing the retail traders to the role of distributive agents working on commission. And the great manufacturers are gaining control both over the wholesale and retail trade. The great departmental store, the large importers, and the co-operative societies have been displacing great numbers of small shopkeepers. The tendency of modern times appears to be the displacement of the independent lower middle class by a salaried class of clerks, salesmen, official and civil servants. This process of concentration in commerce and finance could not escape the observation of a sociological writers like H.G. Wells. “Shopkeeping, like manufactures,” he declares, “began to concentrate in large establishments, and by wholesale distribution to replace individual buying and selling… The once flourishing shopkeeper lives to-day on the mere remnants of the trade that great distributing stores or the branches of great companies have left him. Tea companies, provision-dealing companies, tobacconist companies, make the position of the old-established private shop unstable and the chances of the new beginner hopeless. Railway and tramway takes the custom more and more effectually past the door of the small draper and outfitter to the well-stocked establishments at the centre of things; telephone and telegraph assist that shopping at the centre more and more… And this is equally true of the securities of that other section of the middle class, the section which lives upon invested money. There, too, the big eats the little. through the seas and shallows of investment flow great tides and depressions, on which the big fortunes ride to harbour while the little accumulations, capsized and swamped, quiver down to the bottom”.

I think Wells was the son of a shopkeeper, and so had personal experience and interest in what was happening to this class. And the description of how trade was moving away from the local area into the centre of towns, assisted by the trams and railways, along with orders by telephone and telegraph, could almost be a description of the ruin of modern British high streets by the construction of vast, out of town shopping centres and the mass ordering of goods by shoppers through internet dealers, like Amazon. We’ve been here before, folks, and Old Labour had the capacity and will to solve those problems. And it still has, if it can get past the Blairites and their intransigent advocacy of big business against the worker, the employee and the small businesspeople.

Abdesalam and Terrorist Ringleaders – Butchers, Manipulators and Cowards

March 22, 2016

The major news story today has been the horrific suicide bombings in Brussels. Apart from the deaths and injuries this has caused, it’s also closed down plane, train, tram and bus communications, leaving thousands of people stranded in the Belgian capital. This has come after the capture at the week of Abdesalam, the ringleader of the Paris bombings last year.

The Young Turks’ anchor, Cenk Uygur, made a particularly acute observation about Abdesalam’s character. When the Paris police raided the terrorist’s headquarters, they found an unused suicide belt. It seems that Abdesalam was also due to blow himself to kingdom come along with the rest of the maniacs. But when it came to the crunch, he decided that he wasn’t quite ready to meet Allah in paradise just yet. No doubt he felt he still had too much good work to do still on Earth killing infidels down here before going to meet his maker.

Abdesalam was the ringleader. He planned the attack. His own brother was one of the fools he brainwashed into spattering his entrails, and, tragically, those of the bombers’ innocent victims all over the street. But not Abdesalam himself. He wasn’t going to kill himself, even if it meant killing the infidel. No way! And that, Uygur concluded, was what the leaders of these suicide bombers and terrorists are like. They’re cowards. They glory in the deaths of innocents, and the bloodthirsty maniacs they dupe into carrying out these mass murders, but they do not, under any circumstances, want to do it themselves. And when you get to the higher levels of the organisation, where it’s funded by rich Saudis, the motivation becomes even more cynical. The Saudi intelligence service was funding al-Qaeda and ISIS partly as a way of killing the Shi’a in Iraq and elsewhere, and as a method for grabbing control of Iraq’s oil. And just in case we forget, let’s pause for a minute to remember the monstrous hotel ISIS built in Mosul, or took over, to hold a bun fight for the organisation’s big wigs to contemplate their glorious conquests. I don’t believe for a single minute that these guys have any intention of joining the ordinary grunts on the front line and blowing themselves up. Not while they can, no doubt, enjoy all manner of delights haram to the rest of the faithful on Earth.

Uygur himself is Turkish, and he also pointed out that ISIS was also responsible for terrorist bombings in Istanbul. The people there deserved every bit as much sympathy and concern as those in Paris. And, as he might have said, Brussels.
Absolutely. Turkey has a lot of problems, but Uygur pointed out that it’s both an Asiatic and European country. It’s a country with a long, and fascinating history going all the way back almost to the very beginnings of Western civilisation in the Ancient Near East. And until recently, it also had very little terrorism.

ISIS are an affront to human civilisation, whether you’re Christian, secular, Jewish, Muslim or whatever. They’re cowards and butchers who delight in getting others to kill and maim, but have absolutely no intention of getting themselves caught doing so. Our prayers and best wishes to the peoples of France, Belgium and Turkey. May it not be too long before the vile creatures behind these atrocities are caught and brought to justice.

Vox Political: Jeremy Corbyn to Recommend Councils Run Local Services

February 7, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political reported a story on BBC News, that Jeremy Corbyn was about to tell a conference in Nottingham that privatisation did not work, and that local authorities should take over the management of local services. Corbyn said

After a generation of forced privatisation and outsourcing of public services, the evidence has built up that handing services over to private companies routinely delivers poorer quality, higher cost, worse terms and conditions for the workforce, less transparency and less say for the public.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/06/jeremy-corbyn-councils-should-run-local-services/. Go and read it for further information.

This is really going to put the cat among the pigeons. Privatisation was supposed to solve all this, by taking local services out of the hands of bureaucrats and giving them to entrepreneurs, who automatically knew far better than anyone else how they should be run. Local services would be better managed, more efficient, and there would be more ‘choice’. This was one of Thatcher’s favourite terms, it was her automatic buzzword for the supposed benefits of capitalism.

Except that, in many cases, the ‘choice’ was illusory. There were no other companies lining up to take over services. Or if there were, they were targeting the most profitable areas, for obvious reasons. In Bristol First Bus and its fellow subsidiaries have the monopoly of the bus service. There are other providers, but they only operate sporadic services. I think there is more competition over in Bath, but this has produced different problems. I once bought a return from one bus company over there, thinking that it would apply to buses generally, only to be told I couldn’t use it when I got on the bus run by that company’s rival.

What Corbyn is recommending is ‘municipalisation’. There was a lot of talk about it in the mid-1990s, when Bliar scrapped Clause 4. Of course, the talk was a sop to Old Labour about the traditional basis of Socialism – the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Of course, Bliar and the other New Labourites were convinced Neo-Liberals, and so nothing was done about municipalisation. It was quietly discarded.

In fact, municipalisation was a very old idea and much local industry was already owned and operated by local councils in the late 19th century. Both Liberal and Tory councils, for example, took over the ownership of the local gas and water companies. George Bernard Shaw, in his paper, ‘he Transition to Socialism’ made it the basis for the transformation of the country into a Socialist state, reconstituted as a federation of municipalities.

He wrote:

We now foresee our municipality equipped with land and capital for industrial purposes. At first they will naturally extend the industries they already carry on, road making, gas works, tramways, building and the like …

… Eventually the land and industry of the whole town would pass by the spontaneous action of economic forces into the hands of the municipality; and, so far, the problem of socializing industry would be solved…

This then, is the humdrum programme of the practical Social Democrat to-day. There is not one new item in it. All are applications of principles already admitted, and extensions of practices already in full activity. All have on them that stamp of the vestry which is so congenial to the British mind. None of them compels the use of the words Socialism or Revolution: at no point do they involve guillotining, declaring the Rights of Man, or swearing on the altar of the country, or anything else that is supposed to be essentially un-English. And they are sure to come-landmarks on our course already visible to farsighted politicians even of the party which dreads them.

Elsewhere he said that when he heard people shouting that Socialism would not work, he thought of them getting their gas from the municipal gas works, walking along the municipal movements on their way to the municipal pharmacy or clinic. Of course, Thatcher saw all this coming and it made her ‘frit’ in her own words. So she was determined to privatise everything she could, to ‘roll back the frontiers of the state’. Well, the ability of private industry on its own to solve municipal problems has long been disproved. What happened to all the Urban Development Corporations she set up after the 1981 riots? They were supposed to be able to regenerate struggling areas using all the power of private industry, without interference from the politicos. In fact, they were all quietly wound up, one after another. And now its time to look again at municipalisation to turn back the disastrous wave of privatisation under which our nation is sinking.