Posts Tagged ‘World Bank’

From 2003: IMF Admits Policies Don’t Work

March 27, 2014

I also found this little piece in Lobster 45 for Summer 2003, reporting on a piece in the Independent for the 20th March that year. According to the Indie, the IMF had just published a report concluding that their policies mostly didn’t work. Instead of helping countries with failing economies, the IMF actually made the situation much worse. The article stated

In a paper that will be seized on by IMF critics across the political spectrum, leading officials reveal they can find little evidence of the their own success. Countries that follow IMF suggestions often suffer a ‘collapse in growth rates and significant financial crises’, with open currency markets merely serving to ‘amplify the effects of various shocks.’ Kenneth Rogoff, the IMF chief economist who is one of the report’s authors, called the findings ‘sobering’.

A recent study by the United Nations reported that the 47 poorest countries in the world – the biggest recipients of loans from the IMF and the World Bank – are poorer now than they were when the IMF was founded in 1944. The report says that ‘financial integration’ has often led to an ‘increased vulnerability in crises’ because foreign speculators pull out as soon as trouble emerges.

‘Mea Maxima Culpa?’, p. 25.

The IMF’s policies generally seem to consist of recommending the countries receiving their loans to privatise their economies, savagely cut back on any welfare expenditure, and rationalise the remaining industry, leading to massive unemployment. They also force the countries to open up to private investors from the rest of the world. In the case of at least one Central American country, this consisted of a stipulation to sell their state industries to American companies. Ramsay thus commented that

On the other hand might we not say that the report demonstrates in spades that the IMF’s policies are working splendidly? For is the American-dominated financial system not intended to enable America in particular and the ‘the West’ in general to bleed the Third World dry?

This piece demonstrates that the free trade policies of international financial capitalism really don’t work, except in the respect that they’re intended to make the lenders of the Developed World richer.

Miliband, Blair, the Financial Sector and Labour’s Rejection of the Working Class

March 27, 2014

Eye Miliband pic

Private Eye’s satirical view of Labour leader Ed Miliband from the cover of their edition for 5th -18th October 2012.

There has been increased criticism of Ed Miliband this week after an open letter signed by 28 left-wing activists was published in the Guardian criticising Miliband’s electoral strategy. Many traditional Labour supporters and voters have been increasingly alienated by Labour’s move to the Right and its policy of adopting harsh Tory policies and attitudes towards the poor. Miliband has stated that he wants to reach out to the middle classes, and this week ordered the parliamentary Labour party to vote with the government for the imposition of an overall benefit cap. Although Labour would be better by far than another Tory government after 2015, Miliband’s leadership seems to demonstrate many of the problems and attitudes of the modern political elite: very middle class, with little awareness of or sympathy for the problems and hardship experienced by the poor, the working class, the disabled, and unemployed.

Tony Blair and the Neglect of the Working Class

Much of this attitude began under New Labour with Tony Blair. Own Jones in chavs describes how the political elite have played down the existence of class in order to ignore the working class to concentrate on gaining middle class votes, quoting the politicians Jon Cruddas and Matthew Taylor, one of Blair’s aides.

Jon Cruddas is in no doubt that politicians of all colours have a vested interest in denying the existence of class. It has proved an effective way of avoiding having to address working-class concerns in favour of a small, privileged layer of the middle classes. “They devise ever more scientific methods of camping out on a very small slice of the electorate … those who are constituted as marginal voters in marginal seats.’ Working class voters were taken for granted as the ‘core vote’ who had nowhere else to go, allowing New Labour politicians to tailor their policies to privileged voters.

No New Labour politician personified this attitude more than Tony Blair. Matthew Taylor offers an interesting insight into Blair’s political approach. ‘I worked for Tony Blair, and the point about Tony is that Tony would always say when I would say to him, or other people would say to him: “What about a bit more kind of leftism in all this? What about a bit more about poverty and justice and blah blah blah? …”‘ Blair’s response was blunt, to say the least:

Tony would always say, fine, but I don’t need to worry about that, because that’s what everybody else in the Labour Party wants, and that’s what everybody else in the Cabinet wants, and that’s what Gordon [Brown] wants, and that’s kind of fine. And I’ll leave them to do that, because I know that’s how they’ll spend all their time. They don’t want to do public service reform, they don’t want to wealth creation, they’re not interested in any of that, they’ll just kind of hammer away at that agenda. My job is to appeal to the great mass of people on issues that the Labour Party generally speaking is just not interested in.

The near-obsession with ignoring working-class voters meant inflating the importance of a very small tranche of wealthy voters who were misleadingly construed as Middle England. After all, an individual in the very middle of the nation’s income scale only earns around £21,000. ‘You’re probably right that we did misportray Middle England,’ admits Matthew Taylor, ‘But that again, I’m afraid, is not just a Labour characteristic. It’s characteristic of the middle classes as a whole.’

Chavs, 100-101.

Lobster on Kinnock and the Development of New Labour

The parapolitical magazine, Lobster, has printed a number of articles analysing and critiquing Blair, New Labour and their policies. One of the most important accounts of the origins of the New Labour project is the article, ‘Contamination, The Labour Party, Nationalism and the Blairites’ by the editor, Robin Ramsay, in no. 33, Summer 1997, pp. 2-9. Ramsay views the emergence of what later become known as New Labour in Neil Kinnock’s change of policies following their 1987 election defeat. Kinnock had previously been very left-wing. In his book Making Our Way, according to Ramsay ‘had come close to a radical, anti-finance capital, anti-overseas lobby, pro-domestic economic policy’. This changed after the election defeat, when Kinnock and his economic advisor, John Eatwell, enthusiastically embraced the free market and EEC. He notes that when a group under Bryan Gould produced the report, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, Eatwell, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair objected to the sections recommending a return to national ownership.

An Economic Secretariat was created under John Smith, including advisors from the City of London. Kinnock and Smith became pro-EEC and were convinced that Britain should join the Exchange Rate Mechanism. At a Shadow Cabinet meeting on the 16th November 1989, the Labour leadership followed Smith’s advice that the state could not stimulate the economy, either through the nationalised industries or local councils, because this was prohibited under the rules of the ERM. The Labour Party thus launched the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ to win over the City of London, in which John Smith and Mo Mowlam assured the bankers that they would not attempt to limit their profits any more than Thatcher had. This resulted in the establishment and expansion of a series of groups creating links between the Labour party and the financial sector. These included the Smithfield discussion group, the Labour Finance and Industry Group, and the Industry Forum. The Labour Finance and Industry group represented the interests of the domestic sector, while the Industry Forum and the Norton group presented the interests of the overseas lobby – the City of London and the multi-nationals.

Transatlantic Background of New Labour Leadership

Blair, Brown, Balls, David Miliband and the rest of ‘New Labour’ all had extensive links to America and American interests. Gordon Brown, for example, used to spend his summer holidays in the library of Harvard University. Blair went on a trip to America, which was part of a scheme sponsored by the US government to aspiring young British MPs. David Miliband, took an MA at MIT, Ed Balls studied at Harvard and, before he joined Brown, was about the join the World Bank. As for Mandelson, in his final year at Oxford University he became Chair of the British Youth Council, which had originally been set up in the 1950s by the CIA and SIS as the World Assembly of Youth in order to combat the Soviet youth fronts. Ramsay states

In short, the people round Blair are all linked to the United States, or the British foreign policy establishment, whose chief aim, since the end of the Second World War, has been to preserve the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ to compensate for long-term economic decline. The Blair’ group’s orientation is overseas: this is the territory of the Foreign Office and its think tank satellites like the Royal Institute of International Affairs – the political and propaganda apparatus of the overseas lobby. (p.7).

New Labour and the City of London and Overseas Lobby

Blair himself also announced before the annual conference of Murdoch’s News Corp that the Americans had also insisted that Britain should adopt a more pro-European policy. Due to the massive expansion in overseas investment under Thatcher, Britain was second only to America in this regard and so looked to American political and military power and influence to protect those interests. The result was an increase in support for Labour over the Tories in the London establishment over the Conservatives. The result was a complete reversal of attitude towards the City of London. Whereas the Labour report, Meet the Challenge Make the Change: A New Agenda for Britain had been highly critical of the influence of City of London, the latter was held up as a great success seven years later by Mandelson and Roger Liddle, in their book, The Blair Revolution. Liddle, incidentally, now writes for the Spectator.

Under Bryan Gould, the Labour report had stated of the City’s destructive dominance over the British economy that

‘The concentration of power and wealth in the city of London is the major cause of Britain’s economic problems’… and that Britain’s economic policy had for too long been dominated by City values and run in the interests of those who have assets rather than those who produce.

The Blair Revolution, however, described the City of London and the new, de-industrialised British economy in glowing terms.

Britain can boast of some notable economic strengths – for example, the resilience and high internationalisation of our top companies, our strong industries like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, retailing and media; the pre-eminence of the City of London.

Consequence of City Influence: Everywhere else in Britain Suffers

Ramsay goes on to describe what this change of attitude actually means for everyone else in Britain outside the elite financial circle of the metropolis.

That the British economy policy is ‘outward-looking, internationalist and committed to free and open trade’, in Blair’s words, is precisely the problem from which non-metropolitan Britain has suffered. These are the values of the overseas lobby, the Home Counties financial elite, people for whom Bradford or Norwich, let alone Glasgow and Cardiff, are far away places about which they know nothing – and care about as much.

British politics has been stood on its head. The Conservative Party, traditionally the party of financial and overseas interests, has been replaced in that role by Labour. Instructed by its new friends in the City, Labour has become the party of financial- that is pre-Keynsian – orthodoxy. Gordon Brown looks determined to re-enact the role of Philip Snowden in 1931. The last three years of the Major regime saw Chancellor Kenneth Clarke running the kind of orthodox Keynesian policy – increasing government deficits in response to the recession – which Labour, under Wilson or Callaghan, would have run, but which is anathema to ‘Iron Chancellor’ Brown. (p. 8).

Miliband’s Apparent Lack of Interest in Poverty and Working Class due to New Labour

Ramsay notes the way Labour adopted the rhetoric of ‘One Nation’ Toryism and appeals to British patriotism. This was to disguise their promotion of the overseas economy at the expense of domestic industry. He concludes

The Blair faction will fail. ‘One nation’ rhetoric, continuing membership of the institutions of the New World Order – which is essentially the same old American post-war order minus the Soviet challenge – and leaving economic policy to the overseas sector won’t affect the real structural problems of the British economy. When it does finally dawn on the Parliamentary Labour Party that it won’t work, they will have to look elsewhere. The wrong turning was taken at the point when Bryan Gould was defeated by John Smith and the party leadership decided to surrender to the overseas lobby. To that disjunction it will have to return. (p. 9).

This is the origin of New Labour and the background to Miliband’s continuing attempts to appeal to the Middle Class and the financial elite at the expense of the poor and working class. And it needs to change urgently. Even so, a Labour government would be far preferable to another Tory government. If nothing else, Labour have said that they will stop the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS. But for Labour truly to start tackling poverty and unemployment in this country, it will have to jettison much of the New Labour project and start returning to its working class roots.

IDS and his Armed Bodyguards: Are the Police Arming themselves against the People

December 13, 2013

My blog post on the reports that IDS appeared before the Work and Pensions committed surrounded with bodyguards and armed policemen, who intimidated members of the public, including a group of disabled people and their carers, has attracted a lot of attention and comments. Some of the most significant and ominous have been made by Slugabed, Joseph Jesus and CAS.

Regarding the legality of police officers raising the guns at innocent civilians, CAS commented:

‘Police officers broke regulations if they pointed the guns at you and their fire-arms licenses should be revoked. They are trained to never aim a weapon at anyone, even one that is not loaded, unless those people pose an imminent threat and are being arrested. You should never aim a weapon at anyone unless you are willing to shoot them; this is basic firearms practice. Such a weapon may fire accidentally, even with the safety pin in place. Unless you threatened violence, then the police officers should not have raised their weapons. The police complaints commission must be informed as this is a very serious breach and a clear case of misconduct.’

Slugabed stated that if it occurred within the House of Commons, a complaint should be made to the Master-at-Arms, Lawrence Ward. This was confirmed another commenter, Pedanticgeek.

More ominously, he stated:

‘Not long ago I happened to be in the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers’ Proof House in Commercial Road.The cage there was filled with hundreds of semi-automatic rifles in their crates waiting to be proofed. “Police job.Never had so many to be done” said the man working there,”We’ve had to take on extra staff”’.

His report of the police stocking up on weapons was confirmed by Joseph Jesus, who said:

‘I think you will find that the police are tooling up they have also purchased vast numbers of Tasers.

According to gunpolicydotorg

Police in the United Kingdom are reported to have 272,88417 firearms

BBC – Full-time equivalent (FTE) officers in the 43 forces stood at 134,101

So thats a semi-automatic carbine plus a side arm for each officer.

The question is come the crunch whether the rank & file coppers will turn their weapons upon us or their treasonous corrupt political masters, equally the military.

Our best defence it would seem is to inform every member of the above as to the crimes currently being committed by those that rule over us.

This tooling up scenario is echoed in the USA and no doubt the rest of the OECD and EU nations.’

Lallygag said of IDS and his armed guards that ‘If anyone still had any doubt about whether we still live in a democracy, surely the image of IDS surrounded by armed guards ‘protecting’ him from a group of disability campaigners will finally dispel that doubt. We live in a plutocracy. By the rich, for the rich. And they will protect themselves at all costs. Don’t doubt that.’

Indeed. Looking around the bookshelves in Waterstones on Monday I found a book in the politics section arguing that Britain was developing an oligarchy of the super-rich and powerful. This is overwhelmingly, obviously correct. When Blair was in power the gap between rich and poor in this country was wider than at any time since 1832, I believe. Now it is even wider. Never mind Scottish devolution, Britain is rapidly becoming two nations: the poor, including those in work, and the rich, who have never had it so good and are becoming even richer. And the Coalition is governing on their behalf.

The increased stockpiling of weapons by the police forces is extremely alarming, as it shows that they and the Coalition are alarmed at a violent public backlash against their corruption and misgovernment. I am also not surprised that this is in line with other police forces in the Developed World. Neo-Liberalism has been promoted throughout the globe as the solution to the world’s economic and political problems. It’s been foisted on the world’s nations through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. And throughout the world the results have been the same: grinding poverty and deteriorating conditions for the many, obscene amounts of wealth for the very few. Britain is no different to what is being forced on the poor in places as far apart as continental Europe and India, although at the moment our living standards are still much higher than those in the latter. And as the few fear that the poverty and despair they have forced onto their fellow citizens has provoked anger, resentment and the possibility of violence and chaos, so they are arming the police to protect them. This is a return to the worst aspects of the Victorian era, when ‘special constables’ were recruited to deal with the possibility of working class violence, rioting and insurrection, and the infamous ‘Peterloo Massacre’ when the cavalry massacred a peaceful demonstration camped out to protest high prices and poor wages.

It is also profoundly against the best British traditions. George Orwell, in his book, The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the British, celebrated British uniqueness. England felt different, not just because of its warm beer, pre-decimal coinage and its people’s bad teeth, but also because their gentleman manners. His book is a polemic arguing for a uniquely British brand of Socialism that would be at once radical, and so traditional that foreign observers would wonder whether a revolution had actually occurred at all. This would, he believed, be brought about by the growing classlessness of British society. He noted that there was now a growing class of people, who were now neither obviously Middle or Lower class. Undoubtedly what has saved this country from violent revolution in the past was the doctrine of class reconciliation. This was expressed in Disraeli’s ‘One Nation’ Toryism, and also Fabian Socialism and the Labour Party. The Fabians believed that Socialism would ultimately benefit everyone in society, and rejected class warfare in order to win the support of the middle classes. I have also mentioned several times that to many British radicals, the presence of standing armies in peacetime was an institution foreign despots used to oppress their peoples, something profoundly at odds with traditional British liberty. I think it’s significant and telling that when Sir Robert Peel founded the metropolitan police force, he deliberately made the unarmed. The police forces on the Continent were armed as part of the fundamental view that they were to be a force actively fighting crime. The British police, on the other hand, were unarmed to show that they were there to assist the victim. I also wonder if an additional reason was also to reassure the British public that our police would not be like that of absolutist monarchies or dictatorships, which were there to suppress political dissent and opposition, but instead simply to protect the citizen, his property and his freedom. Since then the police have been extremely keen to gain the support of the public. One chief constable has even remarked on how they were used politically under Margaret Thatcher to destroy the Miners’ Strike. He even described them then as being ‘Maggie’s army’.

This now seems threatened by the Coalition and their war on the poor, the marginalised and the disabled. It cannot be allowed to continue. If it does, then the police force will turn into exactly oppressive, political force its founders sought to avoid, and the gentleness of British society that Orwell praised will have been destroyed. The growing gulf between rich and poor in this country and an increasingly armed police, distant and contemptuous of the people they are sworn to protect are a far more profound threat than Tory rants about ‘political correctness’ and the louche behaviour of pop stars and TV and sports celebrities.