Written by: JT White
- December 8, 2013
There are vital lessons to be learned from the accomplishments and failings of Nelson Mandela. Yet the mainstream media prefer to portray this great man as a kindly and benign old codger who won his battle for freedom. The assumptions behind this can be easily detected and should be excavated with a critical eye. The emphasis is always on the efforts towards reconciliation between the ‘races’ and not looking for ‘revenge’ against his former oppressors. The presupposition of biological distinctions between Africans remains intact while Mandela is to be applauded for being a ‘restraint’ on the barbarous hordes. Behind this lies the white racial consciousness, e.g. ‘us’ versus ‘them’. We should resist this troubling banalisation of such an important figure. What is most admirable about Mandela is not the compromises his side made once in negotiations to dismantle the Apartheid regime.
The much lauded multiracial democracy of South Africa is actually a balancing arrangement between a state monopolised by the black vote and economic power resting in largely white hands. The mines remain privately owned and the largely black workforce is still being squeezed dry. In some ways the South African class system is now even worse than it was under Apartheid, the aspects of racial oppression which were inherent to that system remain in place in economic form. Except now the black people to rise to the business class have a vested interest in maintaining the continued subjugation of the toiling masses (most of whom are not white). The Marikana massacre in September 2012 demonstrated the disgraceful extent to which the ANC has become embroiled in the exploitation and oppression of the working-classes. The sight of white and black cops shooting the miners should be taken as the metaphor for the New South Africa.
To find the true heroism of Nelson Mandela we must examine the reasons for hysterical right-wing accusations of ‘terrorism’ against him. The African National Congress was dedicated to non-violent resistance for decades by this point and had exhausted every alternative to violent direct action. This was the background to the important moment when Nelson Mandela and his compatriots decided to found the Spear of the Nation and initiate the armed struggle. The targets were to be primarily governmental and symbolical, other targets included industrial and agricultural sabotage. Mandela was always eager to prevent the campaign from getting out of hand. He consistently opposed attacks on civilians and car-bombing in particular for it would degrade the movement and its cause. But he recognised that the situation in South Africa demanded more than pacifism.
In the Rivonia trial Nelson Mandela gave a virtuous defence of the cause “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” It was these words which were the reason Mandela was sent to prison for 27 years. It was these words which were the reason the US Congress refused to remove Nelson Mandela from their terrorist list until 2008. And it is precisely for these words which we should admire him in his indomitable resistance to tyranny. To call this ‘terrorism’ is to hold secret sympathy with the same kind of people we defeated in 1945.
If you want to know what the ANC were fighting against for decades you ought to examine the barbarism in which the Apartheid regime was by its nature embroiled. South Africa was a counter-revolutionary force in the face of national liberation movements in its neighbouring countries. In its occupation of Namibia and invasions of Angola and Mozambique, South Africa became the belligerent in a conflict which left more than 1.5 million dead. This was at the same time that the white supremacist state was carrying out assassinations, coups and atrocities which spanned the whole of Africa and beyond. The ultra-violence of the regime was completely supported by the American and British governments of the day, as well as most other European countries and Israel. The major ally of the ANC in its solidarity with the African rebels was the Castro regime of Cuba – who sent thousands of health workers, arms and troops to assist the Africans in their fight with the old colonial powers, as well as forces from South Africa and the CIA.
The reason why the mainstream media would prefer not to delve into the details of the struggle against Apartheid is that it leads to embarrassing questions about the Cold War. We might be tempted to ask why Western governments were so vehemently on the side of Afrikaner minority rule. We might also want to know why is it the Communists were intervening on the side of freedom and not the West. When it comes down to it we would have to examine the history of South Africa and ask some pointed questions. This is precisely what the compromises of the 1990s blacked out from the public discourse. In a way this isn’t surprising. Common to all beginnings the traumas of the past are always to be suppressed to prevent troubling questions of the new order from being raised. If the Apartheid system was a means of managing the class antagonism built into any capitalist society (which was the case) then we should want to know if this multiracial democracy is really much different.
Through divide and conquer the Afrikaner minority could maintain its hold on wealth procured through the exploitation of South Africa’s copious resources as well as its working-classes. In the end it was the international campaigns to boycott and impose sanctions against the South African economy which crippled the system of divide and conquer. The ANC fought alongside the MPLA, SWAPO and Cuban troops against the counter-revolutionary forces at Cuito Cuanavale in what Nelson Mandela called “a turning point for the liberation of our continent and my people.” These events combined with the sight of burning townships from Table Top Mountain was no doubt enough to convince many it was over. In the late 80s the Afrikaner business class then began to meet secretly with Oliver Tambo and others in places like Zambia to establish ties and negotiate. It took the party-state a bit longer. In a couple of years Nelson Mandela would be brought to meet with FW de Klerk in the first steps to his release and the official negotiations.
Written by: Owen
- December 5, 2013
Another day, another round of government policies to be denounced. Today, of course, we had Osborne’s Autumn Statement, with the much-trailed plan to raise the State Pension age to 70 for young workers, and a cap on overall welfare spending (excluding pensions and Jobseekers’ Allowance).
The justification for the former, of course, is that this is just an inevitable consequence of average life expectancy increasing. This will, I’m sure, come as great comfort to the young men of Manchester, who will on average already have been dead for a little over three months by the time they’re actually eligible to get their pension (going on life expectancy for 1993-95, the period when today’s young workers were born). As for the latter, Osborne’s apparent rationale is simply that, despite the wonderful economic recovery he claims to have brought about, and despite Cameron’s recent admission that austerity is a political means to an end and not an economic necessity, we just can’t afford it.
With all that said though, I don’t particularly want to get bogged down in the details of precisely why these policies are unfair or not. What’s more interesting is to consider why it was these policies were chosen – even if you take it as a given that as a heartless Tory Osborne’s going to cut spending on something, why pick a rise in the State Pension age for current young workers rather than say, a cut in the State Pension for those claiming it at the moment? There are any number of reasons of course, but one of them can be summed up very simply: Russell Brand.
I don’t solely mean Brand himself, of course. It would be more accurate to say that I mean stuff like this:
I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites. Billy Connolly said: “Don’t vote, it encourages them,” and, “The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.”
I don’t vote because to me it seems like a tacit act of compliance; I know, I know my grandparents fought in two world wars (and one World Cup) so that I’d have the right to vote. Well, they were conned. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing to vote for. I feel it is a far more potent political act to completely renounce the current paradigm than to participate in even the most trivial and tokenistic manner, by obediently X-ing a little box.
This point of view didn’t begin with Russell Brand – as he says, plenty of people share his opinion. But – if we take people’s decision to vote or not as an indicator of the totality of their political disenchantment – it’s not actually the majority view. Turnout at the last General Election was 65%, or just under two-thirds. It’s almost certainly accurate to say that a majority of people are jaded by mainstream politics and cynical about politicians, but most people apparently aren’t far enough gone to abandon voting altogether. In fact, if you look at the statistics, there’s only one group (of those analysed) for whom the voter turnout was under 50%: 18-24 year olds.
That, in a nutshell, is why young people are getting screwed. 76% of pensioners voted in 2010, compared to 44% of young adults; whose interests is the government more likely to look after, do you think? And as a follow-up, is encouraging this disengagement likely to lead to things getting better for young people, or worse? Not exactly the trickiest one to call, is it?
That’s not to say that all political issues can be reduced to simplistic questions of intergenerational unfairness – I’m not saying the left’s response to the Autumn Statement should be “why not go after the pensioners for a change?” But if there’s no chance of you voting them out of office, the government doesn’t care about you. It’s that simple. This isn’t to take the ludicrous Robert Webb-type view by which voting is apparently the beginning and end of civic engagement in society – obviously demonstrations, strikes, occupations and the like can all make an important difference as well, and there’ll be times and places when getting involved with them is crucial. But to put it bluntly, if you’re rioting in the streets about student debt or unemployment it’s going to be a hell of a lot cheaper for the government to pay the overtime for a few more TSG goons officers than it would be for them to actually fund universities properly or to stop cutting benefits.
Plenty of people, of course, will probably at this point be tempted to reiterate Brand’s point about being so disgusted with politicians and the entire political system to vote for any of them. Tough. By all means feel disgusted – given the current state of British politics, that’s an entirely sensible reaction. But this is more important than your precious feelings, so get over yourself. Not getting screwed over by the Tories will take a lot more than disregarding Russell Brand’s advice about voting, but it might be a good start.
Written by: Reuben - December 4, 2013
Around 70 students have occupied Senate House, the administrative centre of University of London, in protest over the governments plans to privatise the student loan book, the closure of University of London Union and in support of Higher Education workers fighting for improved pay.
This follows a wave of occupations in universities across the country in the last few days including Edinburgh, Birmingham, Sussex and Goldsmiths. Their demands include:
The university issue a statement condemning the privatisation of the student loan book, which a secret report by its buyers at the Rothschild bank states should be followed with a retrospective interest rate hike which will further add to historic levels of student debt.
The university abandon its plans to take our University of London Union out of the hands of students and pass it over to unelected management. This threatens all the services and societies ULU facilitates and is a fundamental attack on our right to unionise.
That the completely reasonable demands over pay and conditions, put forward by higher education academic unions and the 3 cosas campaign, be met: giving academic staff the resources they need to do their jobs, and bringing the sick pay, holidays and pensions of contracted university staff in line with in-house staff.
Mya Pope-Weidemann , a student at SOAS and part of the occupation said “With the privatisation of the student loan book, the lib dem betrayal of students is complete. We are already being saddled with record breaking financial burdens, crushed between soaring living costs and plummeting employment prospects. The assurances that interest rates are safe in bankers’ hands is laughable, it’s like trusting a shark to look after a seal. £900m of student loans sold off to the Rothschild bank for £160m and they have the nerve to call it value for public money? The Tories and their friends are conspiring to squeeze every last penny out of what is fast becoming Britain’s lost generation. And we won’t take this degree of shameless exploitation lying down. The government can expect growing resistance nationally
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Written by: Reuben - November 25, 2013
Tonight, the fantastic radical songwriter Grace Petrie will be launching her new album with a gig at Cargo, in Shoreditch. Tickets are just £6 and are available here. Very much hope you can make it!
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Written by: JT White
- November 14, 2013
There was hardly any outrage in the air when the Health and Social Care act of 2012 was passed. The act stipulates that NHS doctors take control of their budgets as well as permit them to buy services from private companies. Another stipulation is to allow hospitals to use up to 49% of hospital beds and theatre time to generate private income. The section 75 regulations stipulate that the sectors of the NHS which can’t be ‘provably’ run exclusively by public provision will have to face competition from the private sector. Lord Phillip Hunt said that the regulations will “promote and permit privatisation and extend competition into every quarter of the NHS regardless of patients interests.” He added that the reform will make privatisation the default position as the burden of proof is placed on the shoulders of any commissioner opposed to private health provision.
The Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners has stated that these reforms “remove the legal framework for a universal, publically provided, publically managed, publically planned, democratically accountable health service.” Concurrent to these reforms the Coalition has been underfunding health services. In the first budget of the Coalition government, George Osborne announced a 1% increase in funding for the NHS. Yet that amount falls short of the pace at which health costs rise, which is sometimes 2% or 3% above inflation. There is a correlation to this policy. Waiting lists increased by 43% from 2010 to 2012. Fortunately for David Cameron the media has yet to raise more than a whimper of questions about these reforms. It was Lansley who claimed that the NHS has to face cuts for a shortfall of £10 billion to be avoided. Then this year came talk of a £30 billion shortfall at the end of the decade. The government’s prescription: cuts, cuts, cuts.
This is the apogee of decades of health-care policy in this country. The Thatcherites first introduced private companies in the area of cleaning services and even went further to provide contracts to private companies willing to invest in the construction and operation of services. Public-private partnerships were established, effectively subsidising private companies with tax-payer money. The cleaning contracts commissioned from the private sector have led to rising costs for hospitals and a decline in hygiene standards. Out of this came the rise in MRSA. New Labour continued and furthered these developments. The performance targets based on market standards were expanded and health-care professionals were left jumping through even more hoops. The rhetoric of New Labour was decentralisation they offered to ‘free’ hospitals from central control and allow local people to ‘own’ their own hospital.
As of 2005 the UK government was looking to shift 10% of the work of existing NHS organisations to the private sector. The NHS signed contracts with eight different health-care providers to set up fast-track treatments centres to treat 250,000 patients over five years. The programme forced some NHS hospitals to close down wards. In 2011 Andrew Lansley was forced to admit that 60 hospitals were on the “brink of financial collapse” as a result of public-private partnerships first started by John Major and expanded under Blair. The hospitals could not meet the high payments being demanded by private companies. The cost of these gluttonous companies feeding off of the public health service has been bared all along by the British tax-payer. Care homes for the elderly have been privatised just as prisons and now the post office have been. The pig-out goes on.
Yet these developments are not unprecedented around the world. In Canada it was the Conservative Mike Harris who introduced the public-private partnerships in Ontario to open up public assets to corporations in the financing of new facilities and the operation of support services. Diagnostic clinics for MRIs and CT scans were opened up to private companies. Many have introduced all kinds of hidden costs, with one place even charging $100 for an orange juice. These measures were expanded and deepened by Liberal and Conservative administrations. Almost 30% of Canadian health expenditure came from private payments in 2010. More and more there are user fees for those without private insurance and physicians can block treatment if you don’t pay up. Private health-care payments account for 3.1% of Canadian GDP. The spread and scope of private clinics is being expanded still.
Meanwhile in Australia the government of Tony Abbott has confirmed that they will be pursuing the privatisation of Medibank and has not ruled out any further privatisation schemes. Just as the British health system has been underfunded the Australian equivalent has endured cuts in the number of public hospital beds from 74,000 to 54,000 from 1983 to 2009. Effectively this means a 60% cut when the growth in population is taken into account. The Rudd government excluded from the commission’s review, the current 30% rebate for private insurance, which currently costs $3.7 billion annually, so as not to antagonise the insurance companies. The successive Gillard government initiated an austerity programme leading to cuts being set to health budgets in New South Wales of $3 billion, $1.6 billion in Queensland and $616 million in Victoria. So the incremental process of privatisation is not contained to this tired little island.
The forces behind these shifts are not just national but international. The yet to be finalised free-trade deal between the US and the EU may well have troubling implications for the future of universal health-care throughout the EU and not just in the British Isles. It looks like the agreement will open up public services – including health – to private investment and ownership. It would appear as though the Bolkestein directive has only been reconstituted in its mission to see the European Union become a mere managerial edifice for a liberal market economy. At the same time we can see Obama has initiated a series of conservative health reforms in one of the few civilised countries without universal coverage. In the sectors that have profited from the chaos of the American situation there are keen eyes for the potential gains in plundering the NHS. We have been denied a debate on the privatisation of health-care, but as we aren’t going to be given one. We should decide for ourselves what kind of society we want to live in and take action.
Written by: Owen
- October 19, 2013
If you were to ask a member of the current government whether they would ever run the risk of their own children getting a worse education for the sake of upholding a political principle (for example by sending them to an under-performing secular school instead of a higher-achieving religious one, or a dreaded “bog standard comprehensive” instead of a private school), do you think it’s likely they’d say yes? Most likely the response you’d get would be some variant on “well, principles are all very well, but when it comes down to it you’ve got to do what’s best for your kids, haven’t you?”
This isn’t a completely unreasonable position to take – wanting to do what you think is best for your children is, generally, an admirable trait. The funny thing is, though, that it’s becoming increasingly clear that in his infinite selflessness Michael Gove is perfectly at peace with sacrificing the educations of any number of children for the sake of his political principles. The Al-Madinah Free School debacle has made it abundantly clear that (shockingly enough) giving people state funding to set up and run Free Schools wherever and however they like results in some of these new schools doing a monumentally awful job of educating their students.
What’s truly extraordinary is that no one in the government seems to have considered that there might be a risk of this sort of thing happening to Free schools until now. If you introduce market forces into a sector because you think that’s the only way to spur dynamism and innovation, it shouldn’t be too much of a shock when that sector starts behaving like a market and produces winners and losers. The trouble is that the real losers aren’t the failing schools themselves (though it seems extremely likely that Al-Madinah won’t be the last of those) but rather the children attending those schools. They not only get a poor education while they’re at the failing school, but if it closes down they have their education (and social lives) disrupted by having to move school (if there are even spare school places available where they live, which all too often there won’t be).
There’s an obvious, glaring tension between this and the state’s supposed duty to provide a decent education for every child. Local authority-run state schools can fail too, of course, but there’s massively more scope for things to go wrong at free schools – the staff at local authority-run schools are generally actual qualified teachers, for one thing. Yet the government is pressing ahead with this policy all the same, despite the risks to the education of the children who attend the potentially-failing Free Schools. Presumably that’s OK in Michael Gove’s eyes if it’s not his children who are involved.
Written by: JT White
- October 7, 2013
Now that the dust is just about settling in the row over The Daily Mail‘s attack on the Miliband family we might ask what the significance of these events have been. First some background. The attacks came after Ed Miliband made his conference speech wherein – according to right-wing circles – he affirmed some of the most left-wing proposals since War Communism. The gutter press have long had it in for the non-Blairite centrist who resembles a background character from Wallace and Gromit. The accusation frequently hurled at Ed Miliband has been that he is a closet ‘socialist’ in the rabid sense of the term. No amount of cajolery on the part of Miliband could prove to them otherwise. He reached out to Maurice Glasman and embraced Blue Labour to try and wrestle the Conservatives for their newfound Red Toryism and its appeal. Then little Ed was yelping about ‘predistribution’ – redistribution without redistribution in other words – and then he pilfered the prime slogan of a 19th Century Conservative administration. The advent of ‘One Nation’ Labour prompted the hack Matthew D’Ancona to accuse the Labour leader of being “divisively left-wing”.
The days since Miliband’s last speech have been marked by right-wing hysterics about the prospects of a coming socialist state making land grabs and killing off the energy industry in just 20 months. The conservative media had set out to recreate all the hooligan atmosphere of the Cold War and characteristically The Daily Mail went as far as to go after Old Man Miliband. The attack was peculiar in its accusation of anti-British sentiments on the part of a 17 year-old Ralph Miliband. It was first highlighted by The Jewish Chronicle that there was a “whiff” of anti-Semitism around the suggestion of disloyalty on the part of Ralph Miliband. At The Nation, DD Guttenplan noted that “the Mail was careful—the initial attack was written by a hack named Levy, and when it was challenged by the BBC the paper but up not Dacre but a Jewish deputy editor, Jon Steafel, to defend it. (Though even Steafel eventually admitted that the use of Ralph Miliband’s grave was “an error of judgement”).” But it wasn’t just progressives who were perturbed by this smear. It soon became apparent that the Mail had overreached itself.
Around 72% of the public believe that The Daily Mail was wrong to call Ralph Miliband the “man who hated Britain”, while about 69% of people in general and 57% of Mail readers think that the newspaper should apologise. That’s not to say that the article doesn’t have its vociferous defenders. If you have had the noteworthy pleasure of communicating with the kind of people who want to micturate upon the headstone of this grave socialist you may have noticed something. The man’s war record is not enough for them, you may suggest it at least implies loyalty to this country that Miliband fought on our side. Yet the rightist will immediately respond “He fought for Communism, not for Britain” or some other facile attempt to make the charge stick. The fact that the War effort may not have gone our way had it not been for the Russians fighting for motherland – and sustaining more losses than any other army in the War – so this position is vehemently ahistorical. It is no coincidence that the application of abstract principles to this case often comes from the puny minds of those who reckon the Soviet Union was as bad as the Third Reich if not much worse.
The Judeophobes are never too far from the ghouls of anti-Communism. It should be stressed that it is not necessarily racist in intent, but it does fit with a long history and we can’t rule it out for that reason. It has long been a part and parcel of cultural reaction to first claim that the wells are poisoned and then seek out the perpetrators. Again, not necessarily racist as this same logic is at work when conservatives blame the decline of small entrepreneurship on the European ‘superstate’. If you conceive of society as an organic whole where everything is delicately in fine balance then you need a way of accounting for its decay. This is why conservative journalist blamed the riots on everything from Wayne Rooney’s lack of moral fibre, welfare culture, video game violence, ‘black culture’ and the liberal intelligentsia in their agenda to promulgate gay rights and women’s liberation. The case of Geoffrey Levy’s attack on Miliband falls into this special mode of unreason. It is an attempt to associate all the fragmentation of British society with a leftward lurch within the Labour Party, especially if little Ed wins in 2015 then all the mistakes will suddenly be gulag in scale.
All in all it just goes to show that the Mail still identifies with the system to an almost subversive extent. The attack has provoked much sympathy for the departed and his offspring, the books of the Old Man have been rising in sales ever since. The Telegraph responded by re-running its original obituary of the “man who hated Britain”. It was addressed on BBC Question Time where Mehdi Hasan railed against the imbecilic Quentin Letts to much applause. And there was a small protest outside the Mail‘s offices in Kensington. The public sympathise with ‘Red’ Ed even more than they did after his vague pronouncements on the cost of living and promises of a brief energy cap. The people calling for an apology from the Mail overlook that the article has backfired (though not as much as it could have), and that in itself should be seen as a good thing for all concerned with the honour of the late Ralph Miliband. An apology would only serve to redeem the Mail of its lowly behaviour, and we should be grateful for the ferocious stupidity of the paper from time to time. In some ways its good that the right-wing press is not a gliding eagle of civility and integrity. Far from it.
Written by: Reuben - October 4, 2013
So the knives are now out for Mehdi Hassan, after he took the opportunity on Question Time to articulate the disgust that millions of British people feel for the Daily Mail.
The Telegraph is gloating, and the twitter right is going wild, over a Daily Mail journalist’s revelations that Medhi Hassan once applied for work with the paper, and in the course of doing so, privately said some fairly flattering things about the paper.
Well golly. Who would have thought that a jobbing journalist might apply for work with a paper that he dislikes and disagrees with. Presumably Tim Shipman – the man who made these explosive revelations – has never applied for a job with any organisation that he happens to dislike. And if he ever did so, his strategy for getting the job would be to walk into the interview room, and tell his prospective employers that he thought they were gits.
Being able to tell people exactly what you think of them all the time is a privilege that is enjoyed by few people other than professional sociopaths and spoilt heirs. And showing a bit of dishonest decency towards one’s prospective employers is nothing compared with using one of the biggest platforms in the country to continually attack the most marginalised people in society.
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Written by: Reuben - October 3, 2013
Here’s David Rovics’ rather awesome response to the US government shutdown.
Why don’t they shutdown the military too?!
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Written by: Reuben - September 30, 2013
If it was not associated with so much human misery, the Tory Party’s approach to the question of unemployment would be pretty amusing. This is the organisation that never misses the opportunity to tell the unemployed that they need to get off their arse. And yet, by any objective measure, it is also the party of mass unemployment. Though their current headline slogan asserts that they are the party that “for hardworking people”, the opportunity to actually work, hard or otherwise, diminishes substantially whenever the Tories are in power.
Yet the power of ideas within society is not simply a function of their validity. Just because we easily show the Tory rhetoric on benefits to be nonsensical, we should not kid ourselves that such rhetoric can simply be swept aside. Benefit baiting carries sway, and not simply because of the Mail and the Sun. Historically, the idea that paid work justify’s the individual’s place within mainstream society has not simply been part of the dominant discourse. It has also, whether we like it or not, figured prominently within the political culture of Britain’s organised working class – from the chartists, who presented themselves as the spokespeople of Britain’s “productive classes” (unlike the financiers, merchants and aristocrats), to the trade unions of the 20th century who typically deployed some kind of labour theory of value to legitimate their claims for higher pay.
This offers some explanation as to why many of Britain’s unemployed millions are reluctant to identify politically as “benefits claimants”. An unemployed man complained to me in Brixton market that other unemployed people who choose not to work were ruining his reputation as an unemployed man. Many of those who are unemployed would much sooner complain about a lack of work than about inadequate, or excessively conditional benefits.
The problem for the left, is that while we have, quite rightly, got very good at rebutting the arguments for slashing benefits, by explaining that unemployment is not the fault of the unemployed, we have said less about the otherside of the equation. That is to say, we haven’t about how UK Economy can be reordered in such a way as to offer decent meaningful work. This is not something that can simply be achieved through legislation – for example a banning of zero-hour contacts – but instead through much more fundamental intervention to reshape the British economy.
This means, for example, drastically reducing the role of markets, both in driving the production (and non-production) of goods and services, and in allocating capital. A publicly funded British Investment Bank, could allocate scarce investment funds to those industries that created the most good jobs, rather than those that simply generated the highest profit for the least risk. A willingness to intervene in the sphere of international trade could protect workers in those circumstances where markets move faster than human beings and industries can readjust. We need a government that actually creates, or at least subsidizes, socially useful, job-rich, industries, such as green energy – even where they make a financial – and thus supports the development of those industries that have a future but right now have no beginning.
In short if are to respond adequately to the benefit-baiting of the tories, then we need to call loudly for policies which, as economist James Meadway put it to me, “make serious inroads into the perogatives of capital”. If we don’t do this then not only will we fail to offer a convincing alternative to the programme of austerity and privatization. We will also miss a huge opportunity. After all, the unemployment and underemployment of 5.5 million people illustrates l to well the dysfunctionality of the current economic order – and very much opens the door to a fundamentally different vision of how (and by whom) the economy should be wrong.
And finally, the treaty scholars amongst you will recognise that most of what I propose might potentially be vetoed by the European commission on account of Europe’s State Aid laws. This is hardly surprising. As with the People’s Budget of 1908 – or indeed the reaction of power companies to the proposed price freeze – measures to seriously redistribute wealth tend to provoke a clash with the least democratic organs of political power. And as always this is the kind of clash that we should be ready to throw ourselves into, rather seeking to avoid.
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