Posts Tagged ‘Workfare’

Is the End of Debtfare Forced Labour?

September 28, 2020

In his chapter ‘The Violence of the Debtfare State’ in Vickie Cooper and David Whyte, eds., The Violence of Austerity (London: Pluto Press 2017), David Ellis uses the term ‘debtfare’ to describe the dismantling of state welfare provision and its replacement by debt and credit. And I’m starting to wonder how far this can go before something like debt slavery arises. The Romans abolished debt slavery, but the punishment for debt was addictio, forced labour. People are being forced into mountains of debt through poverty created by austerity and the removal of living wages and proper unemployment and disability benefits. Students are also mired in it through tuition fees which now may amount to tens of thousands of pounds.

I am therefore left wondering at what point the various banks and other organisations offering credit will stop it and start demanding their money back or some other form of repayment. Clearly if people remain in debt, they can’t repay the money. The alternatives seem to be either that the banks keep on giving them credit in the hope that they’ll be able to repay something, or else write it off as a loss. But if the number of people in irrecoverable debt hits millions, what happens? If the levels of indebtedness actually starts to harm the banks and the other organisations, will they turn to the state to demand some kind of forced labour in order to make good their profits?

I’ve already pointed out the similarity of the workfare schemes to the forced labour systems of Stalin’s Russia. Stalin used slave labour from the gulags to industrialise the Soviet Union. Business managers would give the KGB lists of the kind of workers their enterprise needed, and the KGB would then have those with the appropriate skills and qualifications accused of anti-Soviet crimes and arrested. The workfare scheme now used to punish the unemployed doesn’t teach anybody any new skills, nor does it allow them to find employment. Indeed the stats a while ago showed that people on workfare were less likely to get a job than if they were left to their own initiative. But workfare does supply cheap, state-subsidised labour to the scheme’s backers and the parties’ business donors, like the supermarkets.

So if the number of people in grievous, irrecoverable debt, will the government simply write them off and let them starve to death, as so many disabled people have done already thanks to false assessments under the Work Capability Tests? Or will they decide they can still make some money for business by pressing them into compulsory labour in order to work their way out of it, as in the Roman system?

I’m not saying this will happen or even that it’s likely. But I do wonder if it’s a possibility.

Starmer Returning Labour to Blairite Corporatism, Cronyism and Corruption

August 12, 2020

On Monday Mike put up a piece commenting on a report in the Groan that after corporate donations to the Labour party had almost dried up under Corbyn’s leadership, the fat cat rich were once again giving their cash to the party. This was welcomed by former Blairite fundraiser, Lord Michael Levy, who declared that it was important that the party should be funded by people, who believe in the cause.

As Mike and the various peeps he cites from Twitter, like Jackie Walker, Tory Fibs, Ian Byrne MP, Kam Sandhu and James Foster point out, Corbyn’s leadership proved that big money donations weren’t needed. The party was funded by its members’ subscriptions and it became the biggest socialist party in Europe. And it was in the black. This is an achievement to be proud of. Now all this is imperilled, as Mike points out. The party is haemorrhaging members at the rate of 2,000 a day. Corbyn’s party was about the people, but the influx of the corporate donors threatens this. Mike asks the obvious question of whether they’re doing this because they ‘believe in the cause’ or whether they’re seeking to influence party policy.

He concludes:

It also indicates that “big money” wants to support Starmer’s appeasement of those staffers who are accused of sabotaging the Corbyn project, of racism, misogyny and in some cases anti-Semitism. Because it makes Corbyn look bad without actually proving anything either way?
This is a very bad look for Starmer’s new New Labour.
We already have evidence that indicates around 2,000 people are leaving the party every week.
This may multiply that outward flood into a deluge.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/08/09/is-keir-starmer-re-installing-corruption-into-the-labour-party-with-the-wealth-of-private-donors/

There’s no question about any of this, and the return of Michael Levy as fundraiser says much, all of it negative. Blair met Levy at a meeting at the Israeli embassy, and Levy was instrumental in getting Blair’s office funding from pro-Zionist Jewish businessmen. This allowed Blair to be independent of union funding, and so pursue his modernisation agenda of turning Labour into the Tory party mark 2. It was also a major factor in the creation of viciously persecutory pro-Israeli establishment within the Labour party that has seen critics of Israel’s barbarous maltreatment and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians smeared and purged as anti-Semites simply for reasoned criticism of a racist, colonialist state.

As for these donors wanting to influence party policy, of course they do. New Labour was corporatist through and through. In return for donations from big business, the corporations were allowed to influence government decisions at every level, with senior management advising and serving in government boards and departments. This is extensively described by George Monbiot in his book, Captive State, and by the satirists and impressionists Rory Bremner, John Bird and John Fortune in their book, You Are Here. These were the same corporations that donated to the Tories, and Blair’s Labour was also sponsored and hosted the same think tanks that advised them.

As the peeps from Twitter have pointed out, it was government for the few, not the many.

As a result, Blair’s Labour party became a byword for sleaze and corruption, far in excess of John Major’s government, which had also been notorious for this. And it is utterly disgraceful, but deeply symptomatic, of the Guardian to try to present the return of private corporations in such a positive light. As for Lord Levy’s words, the corporate donors don’t believe in the cause. Or if they do, it’s simply the Blair project of giving them more power. The Labour party was not founded for them. It was founded as a coalition of trade unions and socialist groups and societies to represent ordinary people – the labouring poor. And their interests were not being served by the other parties. The Tories represented the interest of the Anglican aristocracy, while the Liberals were definitely middle class. More democratic, certainly, than the Tories  – the first working class members of parliament were the ‘Lib-Labs’, trade unionists who entered parliament as members of the Liberals, but ultimately committed to free trade and business at the expense of working class interests.

And corporativism is actively harming democracy, both here and in America. A report by Harvard University a few years ago concluded that the USA was no longer a functioning democracy but a corporate plutocracy because of the corporate funding of parties and political candidates. And even some Republicans are fed up with it. One Republican businessman in California wanted to have a law passed that would force politicos to wear the names of the corporations that had sponsored them on their jackets, like sportsmen. The left-wing surge in the Democrat party was also at the beginning very much a revolt against the corporate corruption represented and led by the Clintons.

But Trump is now in the White House, representing the cesspool of corporate politics over the other side of the Pond. And the Blairites have had their way, toppled Corbyn, sabotaged Labour’s elections and are back to reinstalling the corporations they admire at the centre of government.

Which means more privatisation, including that of the NHS, frozen wages, attacks on the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS. It means mass starvation and more grinding poverty. 

But never mind: the corporations will be in power, exploiting welfare to work schemes, and Israel won’t have to worry about any more pesky criticism about its crimes against the Palestinians.

 

Systems of Forced Labour: Workfare and the Nazi Concentration Camps

December 31, 2019

I had yet another book catalogue come through the post the other day, this time from PostScript. One of the books listed is a historical study of the informers, who snitched on Jews in Nazi Germany, Who Betrayed the Jews? The Realities of Nazi Persecution in the Holocaust, by Agnes Grunwald-Spier (Amberley 2017). The catalogue’s description of this book runs

In The Other Schindlers Agnes Grunwald-Spier wrote of the many unsung individuals who helped the Jews during the Nazi persecution; in this study she uncovers the individuals and groups who betrayed them. Quoting extensively from survivors’ accounts, and in sometimes shocking detail, she examines betrayals made for ideology or greed, but also the ‘commercial betrayals’ by the railway companies, who transported Jews and the industries that used forced labour, and the betrayals made in fear and desperation.

The SS in particular exploited skilled Jewish labour for commercial profit. They used Jewish artisans and craftsmen to manufacture a range of goods available for purchase, even bringing out a catalogue of such items. At the same time, during Stalin’s purges Soviet industries also encouraged the arrest of workers and technicians for their use, even sending the KGB lists of the type of workers they needed.

I’ve blogged before about the similarity between these systems of totalitarian slave labour and the Tories’ workfare, in which the long term unemployed are forced to do voluntary work in order to prepare them for getting a real job. This actually doesn’t work, and it’s been found that you’re actually more likely to get a job through your own efforts than from workfare. And it has been used to prevent skilled individuals doing the voluntary work they want, as a geography graduate found. She had arranged to work in a museum, but the workfare providers decided she had to stack shelves in a supermarket. So she took them to court, and won.

Others haven’t been so lucky. The Violence of Austerity by Vickie Cooper and David Whyte contains a chapter, ‘The Violence of Workfare’, by Jon Burnett and David Whyte, which describes how exploitative workfare is, using figures and testimony supplied by Boycott Workfare. Benefit claimants were frequently humiliated, forced to work in unsafe conditions with inadequate equipment to safeguard their health. Many were forced to do work that was medically unsuitable for them. One worker said

[I[ [w} to work as a volunteer. Made to feel like a slave. Unsafe working conditions i.e. H and S [health and safety] and Fire regulations breached. Told to leave because I complained and took pictures of the unsafe conditions. (p. 63).

Another said

I can’t stand or walk for more than 10 minutes and have severe stomach illness that means when I eat I’m in agony half an hour until 4 hrs after. They may as well have sent me a death sentence. (p. 64).

One man provided a particularly full description of his experience.

They made me work without safety boots for the first week and without a protective jacket. All day was hard labour 9 -5 pm. ~All day I either had to move wood or clean their place. Or they would send me with other people to places to clean houses and back gardens which they would get money for. They claim to be a community place but didn’t see them help anyone. I told them of my back pain and they just ignored it; they didn’t care. Also another business these people had was to charge local people money to pick up their rubbish and then sell it at their place. We were the ones who had to go to pick up the rubbish and there were many hazards. The truck we went on had not seat belts – just disgusting practice. (Same page).

Now let’s not exaggerate. There are obviously profound differences between the Nazi and Stalinist systems of forced labour and workfare. No-one in this country is forcing the unemployed into camps and gas chambers. But workfare nevertheless is part of a system of austerity that has killed over 130,000 people, despite the Tories’ denials.

It is exploitative, doesn’t work, but it supplies cheap labour to their corporate donors and allows them to claim falsely that their doing something about unemployment.

All the while humiliating the unemployed and the sick, and further endangering their health and wellbeing.

Which is how the Tories want it.

Boris Johnson and His Cabinet of Privileged Thugs Seize Office

July 25, 2019

So it’s finally happened. As just about everyone expected, but nobody outside his circle of the Tory far right actually wanted, yesterday Boris Johnson finally slithered into office. It was already on the cards on Monday, when the papers published this piccie of an expectant, jubilant Boris.

It sounds ridiculous, but I know people, who were genuinely unsettled by this image. They described him as looking mad, possessed even. I think it was probably due to a loathing of the man’s vile personal character and views coupled to his goofy expression. It also struck me that with his eye’s wide and his mouth wide open, there’s a certain superficial resemblance to the expression on this notorious American mass murderer, Charles Manson.

Which means that when they saw the picture of Johnson, subconsciously they saw this:

Which is enough to give anyone the creeping horrors.

Now Johnson isn’t a vile, unrepentant serial killer and cult leader like the late Manson. But he is an obscenely wealthy aristo, who has just appointed a cabinet of similarly obscenely wealthy aristos, none of whom seem to have the old virtues of genuine concern for the poor of the Tory paternalists. Because being ‘wet’ went out with Maggie Thatcher. They also stand for nothing more than their own enrichment and the simultaneous impoverishment of the less fortunate. They are vehemently pro-Brexit, anti-welfare and for privatisation and deregulation, despite the immense harm these zombie economics have done to this country and its proud, fine people. And it hardly needs to be said that they’re also pro-fracking and against the environment.

Two days ago on Tuesday, male feminist and anti-Fascist YouTuber Kevin Logan put up a video, Super Rich F**ks, which exactly described the Tory front bench. It was a piece of musical satire, mirrored from Dirty Little Owl’s channel, which showed images of various leading Tory politicians, with captions showing their personal wealth and a short piece about their horrendous voting record, while a song plays in the background viciously sending them up.

It begins with the statement that the Tories have a combined net worth of £2.4 billion, before going to the following –

Michael Gove

Net worth, £1 million +

Consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability.

Chris Grayling

Net worth, £1.5 million

Almost always voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms. (Bedroom tax).

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson

Net worth £1.5 million

Almost always voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits.

Is a massive child.

Theresa May

Net worth: £2 million

While her husband’s £1.1 trillion investment firm avoided UK tax, she cut 2,000 police, raised tax on the self-employed and took benefits from 60,000 disabled people.

Penny Mordaunt

Net work: £2.5 million

Always voted to reduce help with council tax for those in financial need.

Philip Hammond

Net worth: £8.2 million.

Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices.

Sajid Javid

Net worth: £8.5 million

Almost always voted against spending public money to create jobs for young people who’ve spent a long time unemployed.

Lord Stratchclyde

Net worth: £10 million

Voted against free school meals and milk.

Wryly commenting on the girth of the above aristo, the video comments that ‘clearly hasn’t suffered a want of meals himself.’

Jeremy Hunt

Net worth: £14 million

Here the video quotes his views advocating the destruction of the NHS:

‘Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of healthcare in Britain.’

Adam Afriyie

Net worth: £50 million

Voted for reduction in benefits for disabled and ill claimants required to participate in activities intended to increase their chances of obtaining work.

Zac Goldsmith

Net worth: £75 million

Voted in favour of proposed spending cuts and changes to the welfare system in favour of spending on new nuclear weapons.

Lord Deighton

Net worth: £95 million

Voted against protections for pensions being ‘raided’ when the master trust fails.

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Net worth: £100 million

Voted for cuts in Housing Benefits for recipients in homelessness hostels, refuges, sheltered housing and accommodation for people with ongoing support needs.

Richard Benyon – richest MP in the UK

Net worth: £110 million

Voted to set the rate of increase for certain benefits, payments and tax credits at 1%, rather than in line with the increase in prices at 2.2%.

The Marquess of Salisbury

Net worth: £330 million

Receives £250,000 each year of taxpayers’ money for his inherited 10,000 acres, mostly in Jersey.

Lord Ashcroft

Net worth: £1.2 billion.

A tax exile in Belize who has poured millions into the Conservative Party over the years and strongly supported Brexit, which would remove Britain from the jurisdiction of forthcoming tax avoidance rules in the EU.

This bit has a clip from Panorama showing Brexit hiding in the gents’ toilets to avoid having to answer questions on tax avoidance.

I dare say that some of these grotesques are no longer in power, like Theresa May, thanks to Johnson’s massive purge of the cabinet. But those, who have replaced them are pretty much the same. They are what Private Eye once described as ‘the futile rich’. Their only concern is to grab more money for themselves, and steal it from the mouths of the poor.

And the press are complicit in this. Owned by millionaires themselves, they’ve now started a campaign of truly nauseating sycophancy, praising Boris to the rafters. Toby Young even raved about how Boris was a type of ‘Nietzschean superman’.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/07/tory-propaganda-assault-begins.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/07/toby-young-says-gissa-job-bozza.html

And the Beeb enthusiastically joined in last night on the One Show, where one of the guests was his father.

It’s all just Tory lies, one after another. Boris won’t do anything for this country. He doesn’t stand for more investment in the NHS or public services. He won’t put 20,000 more rozzers on the street. But he will privatise the NHS and cut welfare spending like the Tories always have. And Brexit will decimate our manufacturing industry, just as they’re anti-environmentalism will destroy our natural environment.

Get these thugs and hypocrites out now!

Boris, do what you said ought to be done when Blair transferred power to Brown and call an election so we can kick your sorry rear end out of No. 10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boris Johnson’s Cure for Depression – Go Back to Work!

July 21, 2019

Boris Johnson and his legion of deep thinkers ponder mental health.

Just as Johnson has ignorant views on foreign nations and their leaders, so, it should come as no surprise, that he also has stupid and ignorant views on depression and mental illness. Yesterday Mike put up another article, based on a piece by Poorna Bell in i News, about Johnson’s latest piece in the Torygraph, in which he informs that disgusting rag’s readers about his ideas for tackling this serious health problem. And it really isn’t anything worth considering. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. His views on its solution aren’t just ignorant, they’re actually dangerous.

BoJo believes that depression can not only be effectively tackled, the cure would also help the economy and save money, all at the same time. So what is this wonder cure? Simples. He wants the depressed to go back to work. Because it worked for Winston Churchill during his ‘Black Dog’ episodes. According to the sage of Henley on Thames, or wherever it is he’s MP, it was through work Churchill ‘pitchforked off’ his depression. He goes on to write that what is true for Churchill is also to a certain extent true for the rest of us – that we derive a large extent of our self-esteem from our work. He goes on to say that it is being engrossed in our daily tasks that we derive an all-important sense of satisfaction.

Mike shrewdly remarks that if hard work’s so good at curing depression, then why has Boris himself never tried it? He admits its a low blow to claim that the man, who would be PM is mentally ill, but his views are an offence against people, who really have been diagnosed with these problems. He therefore asks

As this man may soon be the UK’s prime minister, why has nobody demanded that he undergo a mental health check?

Boris Johnson’s comment about mental illness raises one revealing question

Bell, the writer of the original article on which Mike’s is based, also isn’t impressed. She lost her husband to depression, and makes the point that it isn’t that people with depression don’t want to work, it’s that they can’t.

We’ve heard this kind of nonsense before. When the Tories first got nearly nine years or so ago, they and a number of mental health charities were advocating this approach. Tom Pride, Johnny Void and a number of other left-wing blogs, including Mike, tore it to pieces. They especially attacked the directors of the mental health charities making these claims, pointing out that they really had no understanding of depression and other forms of mental illness before, and their personal connections to industry and right-wing think tanks.

It’s the advice given out by fit types, who have never suffered any form of anxiety or depression, and so have absolutely zero understanding of it. To them, it’s just feeling a bit down. But never mind, you can pull yourself out of it, if you want to! Those people usually tell you how they were left feeling very depressed once, but they were able to come out of it by putting their mind to it.

And they’re wrong.

Depression isn’t like feeling ‘a bit down’. It is, as one scientist, Lewis Wolpert, called it A Malignant Sadness, which was the title of the book he wrote about his experience with it after losing his mother. And you can’t pull yourself out of it. Those with it try, and fail, and the failure makes them feel worse. Or at least, that was my experience when I came down with it nearly three decades ago.

Johnson’s comments are also those of someone, who has never had to take a job he didn’t want or like in his life. As an Old Etonian, he could always rely on his wealth and connections to open doors for him, just like his fellow old school chum David Cameron was invited to work for the royal family. Johnson worked first as a journalist, then became editor of the Spectator, and finally a professional politician with an eye on the top job. I dare say all these jobs have their stresses and problems. But he has never been forced to take a menial, poorly paid job simply to put a roof over his head and/or food on the table. He has never been in a zero-hours or short-term contract, nor had to worry about any other kind of job precarity. And whatever else they were, his jobs weren’t boring.

When I had my breakdown, I was in an extremely boring job. I had nothing to distract me from the fears and anxieties I had at the time. And so, while I can’t claim the job caused the breakdown, it didn’t help and made my mental health worse.

And I’m sure I’m not alone by a very, very long chalk.

At the time I was working in an office, as very junior staff. And job hierarchy is very much part of the problem. Way back in the 1990s the Beeb’s flagship science programme, Horizon, covered the problem of stress. Using the civil service records going back to the First World War or so, they showed that while the people at the top of the civil service were also under pressure, it was the people at the bottom of the pile who suffered from stress-related illnesses. And the crucial reason why they did, and they’re seniors didn’t, was simply because their seniors were in a position of leadership. They had control, whereas the staff at the bottom didn’t. One former, high ranking civil servant said that when he joined, it was like the whole world was opening up to him.

Which exactly describes Johnson’s position and mentality.

He could always count on a very good position, even if it wasn’t one of leadership. As an Etonian, he immensely privileged and has access to a world of opportunity very much not granted to you and I. And it shows. He’s always enjoyed good mental health, even if that doesn’t hold true for commonsense, intelligence and simple common decency. He has never, ever in his life suffered the anxieties and stresses of the powerless, the people most likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

He doesn’t understand their predicament. Neither do his readers, or the rest of the Tory party and its degraded, mendacious press.

He isn’t interested in making genuinely sick people well. He’s only interested in finding ways to get people back into poorly paid, insecure work. Or if not that, then simply off the benefits the poor and sick need to survive.

And this means that if he gets in, we can expect the wretched workfare, benefit sanctions and work disability tests to continue. Because it’s all justified in getting people back to work, as that will cure them.

Except it doesn’t. Mike has put on his blog time and again case after case in which the DWP declared a severely ill person ‘fit to work’. And quite often they tried to justify this by saying that working ‘would bring positive benefits to their self-esteem’ or some other similar sniveling rubbish. Like the case where the DWP passed someone as fit to go back to work, who was being treated for cancer in the spine. This person was in no way fit to go back, but the assessor decided they should because ‘it would give them something to look forward to.’

Disgusting!

Boris is a menace to the disabled poor, as is his wretched party. Get them out, and a Labour party, led by Corbyn, in!

 

Britain to Gets Its Own Reichsarbeitdienst for the Environment?

July 18, 2019

Yesterday’s I for Wednesday, 18th July 2019 carried an article by Stephanie Soh, ‘How young and old could help a National Nature Service’ on page 26 reported that the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission and the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts has suggested that a special Nature Service should be set up. This would be a form of National Service, in which school leavers and young people would be sent out to work on farms and the environment. The article runs

Imagine signing up for national service, and you probably picture yourself doing rifle practice, cleaning graffiti off a wall or helping elderly people in you community. But what about picking up a shovel to farm fruit and vegetables?

A “National Nature Service” – a voluntary scheme that would involve people aged 18 to 25 taking up agricultural work in rural communities – has been suggested by the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, and set up by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragements of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce).

Arguing that “farming is a force for change”, it says that the sector has the potential to boost Britain’s economy and help to mitigate climate change through sustainable practices. But to do this, it needs manpower. In exchange for their work, young people would be able to do their bit for the environment, gain new experiences and reconnect with nature.

The commission suggests in its report Our Future in the Land that “aspects of the service could form part of an accredited learning scheme or apprenticeship”. It could be target at young poeple from disadvantaged communities, as well as retirees who have “time and resources to do the work”.

Grants could fund projects that would provide free bed and board to participants. With many young people struggling to find paid work, with many expected to serve internships to get a foothold in their careers, some might question why they would consider working for free on farms.

But with climate change a problem for communities everywhere, and teenagers increasingly engaged in the issue, perhaps it’s not such as far-flung ideas that they might want to volunteer for a scheme that helps them find solutions for it.

The trouble is, this is a Nazi idea. Hitler set up a Reichsarbeitsdienst, ‘imperial work service’, which was a system of compulsory voluntary work. Young people were sent off to work in agriculture for a set period. It was based on earlier voluntary work schemes set up by the Weimar government to deal with unemployment. The Nazis then took it over and massively expanded it. Again, it was used by the Nazis to claim that they had solved unemployment.

And this looks almost exactly the same, except that it’s being suggested in a country that is still just about democratic.

I’ve blogged before about the similar to the various ‘welfare to work’ schemes set up by the Tories and the Lib Dems to the Nazi Reichsarbeitsdienst, how they also claimed to be helping people tackle unemployment, while really they’re about massaging the unemployment figures and providing cheap labour to Tory and Lib Dem donors in industry and the charity section. Now the authorities have narrowed any difference between these schemes and their Nazi predecessor even further with this.

There are still some ideological differences. Part of the reasons the Nazis set up the Reichsarbeitsdienst is because they saw themselves as a peasant party, defending the rights and way of life of small farmers. Thus they enacted a series of policies which were intended to regenerate agriculture, and provide help and security for the peasants. At the same time young people were expected to work out their time on farms, they were also expected to absorb the farmers’ healthy peasant, volkisch values. As against the malign influence of the towns and urban culture, which were hotbeds of socialism and cosmopolitanism created and fostered by the Jews.

There doesn’t seem to be any anti-Semitic, ultra-nationalist overtones to the scheme just yet, but this may well change if the Tories or, Heaven forbid!, the Brexit party ever get into government.

And there’s another different with the Nazi scheme. The Nazis intended the service to be part of their plan to create a classless German society, a true volksgemainschaft, or people’s community. As such Hitler gave a speech to the Reichsarbeitsdienst in which he said that there wouldn’t be a member of the political or industrial elite that hadn’t risen from their ranks.

But with a government dominated by old Etonians and other public schoolchildren, I can’t see that happening any time soon. None of the other ‘voluntary’ schemes have shown themselves better at getting the underprivileged and unemployed back into work, and I very much doubt this one will either.

Regenerating the High Street through National Workshops

January 7, 2019

Last week Tweezer announced her plan to revitalize Britain’s failing high streets. Many of our shops are closing as customers and retailers move onto the internet. City centres are being hit hard as shop fronts are left vacant, inviting further vandalism, and further economic decline as shoppers are put off by empty stores and smashed shop windows. In America, it’s been forecast that half of the country’s malls are due to close in the next few years. Tweezer announced that she was going to try reverse this trend in Britain by allocating government money to local authorities, for which they would have to bid.

I’m suspicious of this scheme, partly because of the way it’s being managed. In my experience, the Conservatives’ policy of forcing local authorities to bid for needed funding is simply another way of stopping some places from getting the money they need under the guise of business practice or democracy or however they want to present it. It’s the same way Thatcher would always delay the date when she’d give local authorities they funding they needed for the next year. It’s a way of disguising the fact that they’re making cuts, or simply not giving the money that’s really needed.

As for how local authorities could regenerate their town centres, I wonder if it could be done through a form of the national workshops suggested by the 19th century French socialist, Louis Blanc. During the Revolution of 1848, Blanc proposed a scheme to provide jobs for France’s unemployed by setting up a series of state-owned workshops. These would be run as co-operatives. The workers would share the profits, a certain proportion of which would be set aside to purchase other businesses. This would eventually lead to the socialization of French industry.

Needless to say, the scheme failed through official hostility. The scheme was adopted, by the state undermined it through giving the unemployed on it pointless and demeaning jobs to do. Like digging ditches for no particular reason. It thus petered out as unemployed workers did their best to avoid the scheme. There’s a kind of parallel there to the way the Conservatives and New Labour tried to stop people going on Jobseeker’s Allowance by making it as degrading and unpleasant as possible, and by the workfare industry. This last provides absolutely no benefit whatsoever to workers on it, but gives cheap labour to the firms participating in the scheme, like the big supermarkets.

The national workshops, on the other hand, were at least intended to provide work and empower France’s working people.

In his Fabian Essay, ‘The Transition to Social Democracy’, George Bernard Shaw suggested that Britain could painlessly become a truly socialized economy and society through the gradual extension of municipalization. Town councils would gradually take over more and more parts of the local economy and industry. He pointed to the way the local authorities were already providing lighting, hospitals and other services.

I therefore wonder if it would be better to try to create new businesses in Britain’s town centres by renting the empty shops to groups of workers to run them as cooperatives. They’d share the profits, part of which would be put aside to buy up more businesses, which would also be turned into co-ops.
Already local businesses in many cities have benefited by some radical socialist ideas. In this case, it’s the local currencies, which are based on the number of hours of labour required to produce an article or provide a service, an idea that goes all the way back to anarchist thinkers like Proudhon and Lysander Spooner in the 19th century. These schemes serve to put money back into the local community and businesses.

I realise that this is actually extremely utopian. Local governments are perfectly willing to provide some funding to local co-ops, if they provide an important service. I’ve heard that in Bristol there’s a co-op in Stokes Croft that has been funded by the council because it employs former convicts and drug addicts. However, you can imagine the Tories’ sheer rage, and that of private business and the right-wing press, if a local council tried to put a system of locally owned co-operatives into practice. It would be attacked as ‘loony left’ madness and a threat to proper, privately owned business and jobs.

But it could be what is needed, if only partly, to regenerate our streets: by creating businesses that create jobs and genuinely empower their workers and provide services uniquely tailored to their communities.

‘I’ Newspaper Publishing Economist Articles to Promote Economic Orthodoxy?

January 6, 2019

The I proudly announced yesterday, 5th January 1919, that it had now made an agreement with the Economist to print articles from that magazine. Now the Economist has a reputation for excellent journalism, and for clearly explaining complex issues for a lay readership. But it is, unsurprisingly as a business magazine, firmly behind the current economic orthodoxy. Which is that capitalism is great, and state intervention and the unions are to be strongly resisted.

The I started out as a digest version of the Independent, which adopted its name in order to show that it was independent of party political bias. The I undercut its parent paper, which has now, I believe, gone on the internet. As for the I itself, while it is supposedly free of overall political bias, it has shown itself to be consistently and fiercely biased against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour party. If followed the rest of the press, for example, in promoting the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour leader and his supporters.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that capitalism in the west is now in serious trouble. In Britain a quarter of a million people now have to rely on food banks to fend off starvation, a sizable proportion of whom are actually working. Tens of thousands of people are homeless, and the present generation of young people in Britain and America are now looking at a future in which they will never be able to afford to buy their own home. Even rented property may be out of their reach. Recent polls show that 55 per cent of American young people now have no faith in capitalism.

And in Britain this is all set to get worse, much worse, with Brexit. Which is why Tweezer has set up a department to deal with food shortages, and has prepared to put 3,500 squaddies on Britain’s streets in the event that Britain crashes out without a deal with the EU.

This must worry the ruling elite, which worked hard throughout the Cold War to stop the peoples of the world taking up Communism and has consistently attacked, destabilized and overthrown liberal and left-wing governments and political leaders around the world. This has not prevented the business papers in the past recognizing that there were profound problems with current economic policy. In the 1990s, for example, the Financial Times carried a number of articles demonstrating very clearly that poverty was increasing, and that the majority of the new poor in America and elsewhere were actually working, not unemployed. This was when the newspaper supported the Lib Dems, though that didn’t stop one of its columnists telling his readers that he supported workfare. According to Private Eye the FT is, like the rest of the lamestream press, losing readers. It has tried to reverse this by switching its support to the Tories, but this hasn’t stopped its readers from leaving it.

Looking at this arrangement between the I and the Economist, it seems that these journals are also in trouble. The I‘s management seems to hope that this arrangement will encourage some of the Economist’s readers will also start reading the paper, while it can be inferred that the Economist’s management probably hope that some the I’s will start looking at theirs.

Now this doesn’t mean that the I will start having a strong political bias towards one party, although it has always attacked Corbyn and his supporters in Labour. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t have a political bias at all. It does. Like the Groaniad, it is biased towards the current worn-out Thatcherite political and economic consensus. Hence both magazines’ attacks on Corbyn because he and his supporters have rejected it and are determined to overturn it.

It seems to me very strongly that the I has therefore made this arrangement with the Economist, not just to boost sales, but also to try to reinforce and promote the popular acceptance of Thatcherite economic orthodoxy, an orthodoxy that is accepted uncritically by the Blairites and the Lib Dems outside the Conservative party, but which is rejected by the Corbynites. An economic orthodoxy that is increasingly shown to be wrong, and catastrophically wrong, to an increasingly large number of this country’s citizens.

The I and its owners, like the press, are terrified of this, as is the rest of the press. Hence the decision to try and bolster Thatcherite capitalism through the republication of Economist articles, even when claiming still to be politically independent. But it’s only independent of particular parties. Ideologically, it’s still Thatcherite.

Bakunin: Democracy without Economic Equality Is Worthless

December 27, 2018

More anarchism now, this time from the Russian anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin. Bakunin violently criticized and rejected democracy because he passionately believed and argued that without economic equality for the workers, it would simply preserve the power of the exploiting classes, including the bourgeoisie, the owners of capital and industry. These would continue legislating for themselves against the workers.

Bakunin wrote

The child endowed with the greatest talents, but born into a poor family, a family of workers living from day to day on their hard labour, is doomed to an ignorance which, instead of developing his own natural talents, kills them all: he will become the worker, the unskilled labourer, forced to be the bourgeoisie’s man-servant and field-worker. The child of bourgeois parents, on the other hand, the child of the rich, however, stupid by nature, will receive both the upbringing and the education necessary to develop his scanty talents as much as possible. He will become the exploiter of labour, the master, the property-owner, the legislator, the governor-a gentleman. However stupid he may be, he will make laws on behalf of the people and against them, and he will rule over the popular masses.

In a democratic state, it will be said, the people will choose only the good men. But how will they recognize them? They have neither the education necessary for judging the good and the bad, nor the spare time necessary for learning the differences among those who run for election. These men, moreover, live in a society different from their own; they doff their hat to Their Majesty the sovereign people only at election-time, and once elected they turn their backs. Moreover, however excellent they may be as members of their family and their society, they will always be bad for the people, because, belonging to the privileged and exploiting class, they will quite naturally wish to preserve those privileges which constitute the very basis of their social existence and condemn the people to eternal slavery.

But why haven’t the people been sending men of their own, men of the people, to the legislative assemblies and the government? First, because men of the people, who have to live by their physical labour, do not have the time to devote themselves exclusively to politics. [Second, b]eing unable to do so, being more often ignorant of the political and economic questions which are discussed in these lofty regions, they will nearly always be the dupes of lawyers and bourgeois politicians. Also, [third] it is usually enough for these men of the people to enter the government for them to become members of the bourgeoisie in their turn, sometimes hating and scorning the people from whom they came more than do the natural-born members of the bourgeoisie.

So you see that political equality, even in the most democratic states, is an illusion. It is the same with juridical equality, equality before the law. The bourgeoisie make the law for themselves, and they practice it against the people. The State, and the law which expresses it, exist only to perpetuate the slavery of the people for the benefit of the bourgeoisie.

Moreover, you know, if you wish to file suit when you find your interests, your honour, or your rights wronged, you must first prove that you are able to pay the costs, that is, that you can lay aside an impossible sum; and if you cannot do so, they you cannot file the suit. But do the people, the majority of the workers, have the resources to put on deposit in a court of law? Most of the time, no. Hence the rich man will be able to attack you and insult you with impunity. There is no justice at all for the people.

Political equality will be an illusion so long as economic and social equality do not exist, so long as any minority can become rich, property-owning, and capitalist through inheritance. Do you know the true definitions of hereditary property? It is the hereditary ability to exploit the collective labour of the people and to enslave the masses.

In Robert M. Cutler, Mikhail Bakunin: From Out of the Dustbin: Bakunin’s Basic Writings 1869-71 (Ann Arbor: Ardis 1985) pp. 50-1.

Bakunin’s stance is extreme, obviously, and the educational opportunities open to working people has changed immensely since the late 19th century when he wrote this. The school leaving age in Britain has gradually been extended until it’s 18, and nearly half of all school leavers now go on to university to obtain degrees. But nevertheless, his criticism still remains valid.

The majority of politicians and members of parliament come from the middle and upper classes. There was a book published a few years ago that estimated that 75 per cent of MPs have senior management positions or sit on the boards of companies, so that the majority of them are millionaires. As a result, legislation passed by them has benefited industry at the expense of working people, so that the rich are getting much richer, and the poor poorer. They have attacked employees’ rights at work, introduced the gig economy, which has trapped people in insecure, irregularly paid work without benefits like annual leave, sick pay or maternity leave. At the same time the benefits system has been attacked to create a demoralized, cowed workforce ready to accept any job than starve without state support, due to benefit sanctions and delays in payment. And then there’s the infamous workfare, which is nothing less than the abuse of the benefits system to supply industry and particularly the big supermarkets with subsidized cheap labour for exploitation.

This situation has partly come about because New Labour abandoned economic justice for working people and took over the Neoliberal policies of Margaret Thatcher. The result was that even when the Tories were ousted with the 1997 election, elements of Thatcherism continued under Blair and Brown. And the Neocons have admitted that while they were in favour of exporting democracy to Iraq, they wanted that new freedom to be strictly limited so that only parties promoting free trade and economic individualism would be elected.

In the US the situation has got worse. Due to political sponsorship and donations from big business, politicians in congress notoriously do not represent their constituents but their corporate donors. Only 19-25 per cent of American voters feel the government works for them, and a study by Harvard University concluded that the country was not so much a democracy as a corporate oligarchy.

Democracy would thus benefit the ruling classes, and provide the illusion of freedom for everyone else.

This has to be reversed. Corporate money and power has to be taken out of politics and ordinary working men and women put in, with an agenda to empower this country’s ordinary people instead of reassuring lies, like the Tories.

It’s why we need Corbyn in government, and the Tories, Lib-Dems and New Labour out.

Hitler and the Imprisonment of the Unemployed in Concentration Camps

December 15, 2018

A week ago I put up a passage from Brady’s The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism about how the Nazis prevented anyone, who had left their job without good reason, to receive unemployment benefit for several weeks. I pointed out that this was similar to legislation passed in the 1990s by John Major’s Conservative government, which also prevented those, who had voluntarily made themselves unemployed from getting benefit for a set period of time. And a few years or so ago now, I also put up pieces about the Nazis’ incarceration of the long-term unemployed, whom they stigmatized as ‘workshy’ – arbeitscheu – in concentration camps.

Flicking through Hitler’s Table-Talk (Oxford: OUP 1988), the Nazi leader’s dinner conversation as recorded by Martin Bormann, I found Hitler’s own ideas about it. Hitler said

The ten or fifteen thousand professional loafers who were lounging around Germany at the time of our assumption of power, and who showed no inclination to take a regular job when once German industry had started to function again, have been put into concentration camps. For it is ridiculous to try to deal by ordinary methods with muck of this kind. The fear of being put into a concentration camp has had a most salutary effect, and it greatly facilitated the gearing up of the gigantic industrial activity which our rearmament programme demanded. (p. 559).

This supports the case of one of the left-wing Labour supporters, who was falsely accused of anti-Semitism by the Blairites and the Israel lobby. He was accused because he’d put up on his webpage a photo of a jobcentre, with its sign reading Arbeit Macht Frei. This was the infamous slogan the Nazis had placed on the gates of Auschwitz, hence, presumably, why the poor fellows accusers tried to claim he was an anti-Semite. But the slogan simply means ‘Work Makes You Free’, and it was put over the top of many of the concentration camps even before the Nazis embarked on their vile ‘final solution’. And among the prisoners in them were long-term unemployed. The accused man was also quite justified in using the slogan to attack the Tories’ attitude towards the unemployed, because one Tory minister – I’ve forgotten who it was – had actually started an article in the online version of one of the papers defending the Nazi slogan and saying it was quite right. Until someone had a quiet word with him and told him that supporting the Nazis in anything was not the way to gain support and would just alienate people. As it would and should. So that part of the Tory’s article vanished soon after.

The Tories haven’t yet started imprisoning the unemployed in concentration camps. But they are killing them through their reforms to the benefits system, reforms which have seen tens or hundreds of thousands of people thrown of benefits for even the slightest infraction of the rules. Even when it involves matters beyond their control, such as if they were in hospital when they were supposed to attend their appointment at the jobcentre. And the very many disabled people, who have been forced into misery, starvation and death because they were declared ‘fit for work’ under the unscientific and fraudulent Fitness for Work tests.

The unemployed have also been used as a supply of cheap labour for private industry through the ‘welfare to work’ scheme. In this, they have been forced to take unpaid work in various firms and charities, if they wish to continue receiving their jobseekers’ allowance. This is supposed to prepare them for work. But research has shown that it does not, and in actual fact those forced onto these schemes are actually worse off at finding proper employment, than those who are able to make their searches.

The Tories aren’t working the unemployed to death in concentration camps just yet, but they have the Nazis contempt for them, which is poured out regularly in the pages of right-wing rags like the Scum and the Heil. But you do wonder how long before the Tories get sick of pretending to support the welfare state, and end unemployment benefit completely, leaving the poor to starve and die. Or else start opening concentration camps in which to imprison the jobless in order to teach them how to support themselves by working.

It would only be a natural extension of workfare, after all.