Archives for posts with tag: labour

Get your fighting pants on. This is it.

In seven weeks the UK will vote for its next Government. In 2015 there was almost nothing to choose between the  three “main” parties. None of them offered anything exciting. Well, maybe in hindsight the EU ref promise was interesting to a few people…

Things are very different now.

I’m going to dig in to the promises and statements made by the parties in their campaigns, because two are still waging an economic war against you, but one, now, is actually fighting for you.

Yeah, they will all say they’re fighting for “hard-working Britain”. Trouble is they’ll say that while finding ways to take your economic power away and redistribute it to the people who already hold an insanely disproportionate amount of wealth, income and power. Well, The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will. But not Labour. Not this time.

Yes, in the past, under Blair and Brown they were as guilty as the others of these economic war crimes. They helped plant economic time bombs in the services you rely on – the NHS, schools, libraries, social services. Privatising them and loading them up with absurd PFI debts was direct economic warfare – nothing else. You and me, collectively, we used to own these assets and use them daily. Not now. B&B literally gave them away and at the same time used them as a way to siphon future wealth out of our collective pockets and into the grotesque sweaty palms of the bankster elite. Because over the period of these PFI deals we will pay at least 7 times more than the cost of building the new buildings and providing the services would have if we did it ourselves, and not only that, at the end of these deals we don’t own the bricks-and-mortar assets. Nope. The contractor does. How was this even allowed???

So here is the first example of the real difference between the Cons and Labour.

Cons will continue to destroy the nation’s collective assets and the services we have collectively built, paid for and provided. Billions of NHS budget will be handed to tax dodging carpet baggers under their rule. Costs will rise. Staffing levels will fall. Your NHS will provide less and less of the care you need. They’ve already been doing this since 2010, and in the last couple of years the results have started to show.

Labour will first end and then reverse this economic war crime. The sale of your NHS will be halted. PFI contracts cancelled. Services will be brought back into public hands. Costs will fall. Staffing levels will increase. Collectively we become wealthier.

84% of people asked thought the NHS should be publicly run, not for private profit.

Are you one of these 84% of UK public? Then who are you going to vote for?

Wow.

It’s 2 hours since my partner and I went to see Ken Loach’s “The Spirit of ’45” at our local indy/arty/groovy picture house, The Tyneside Cinema. It’s Late. I’ve tried to sleep. I’ve got three 12-hour shifts over the next three days. I need to sleep. But I can’t. I’m too stirred up. I’m too moved, too uplifted, too angry, too heartbroken, too depressed, too motivated.

Firstly: Go and see this film. I implore you. Even if you aren’t interested in politics, or you think history is boring and stuffy, or you can’t stand the cinema. This film shows up how hollow, empty, damaging most “entertainment” is. It shows how utterly essential politics is to each of us, and how without recalling our history we are so terribly vulnerable to the invidious weapons of the economic soft war being waged against us. Have a look through some of the earlier posts if you want to see what I mean by a soft war, and what some of those weapons are. Go here: [http://www.thespiritof45.com/About-The-Film/A-Brief-Synopsis] to find out more about the film. What I want to write now is a (probably jumbled) quick reflection on what I made of it, and what I took from it. Partly as a record so I can come back to it and find out about all the issues it raised, partly as my contribution to the discussion this country needs about our futures, but mostly as a (fingers crossed) cathartic release in the desperate hope I can get some sleep once my brain has offloaded it’s over-capacity ramblings.

There’s tonnes to say about this film. I’m going to try and organise this as I go, and attempt some on-the-fly editing to avoid the danger of gigantic tangentialism.

Thought no.1: Oh my word. What an incredible political climate there was in ’45. What the hell has happened to us? The website I linked above has an amazing archive of the political manifestos from 1945 onward  How have we gone from a Labour party that stated it was “… a Socialist Party, and proud of it. Its ultimate purpose at home is the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain – free, democratic, efficient, progressive, public-spirited, its material resources organised in the service of the British people.”, and clearly states it’s intention to nationalise utilities, industries and transportation (Labour manifesto 1945) to one that accelerated the destruction of the great work of it’s predecessors through the incremental privatisation of the NHS, Universities, social services, social housing provision, policing, criminal justice system, prisons, and aided the deregulation, boom and consequent bust of the financial sector that has brought industrialised nations to their knees? How can we have sleep-walked into a political climate where a party bearing the same name as that which created the NHS and the welfare state has actively undermined, dismantled and sold-off these essential pillars of society, often whilst the individual MPs and Lords (or those that fund their private office or lobby them) have benefited financially through doing so?

Thought no.2: Everything pro-capitalists tell you is a lie. Only once in the last 100 years has there been a deliberate concerted effort to raise living standards for the masses. Only one government has over-seen a deliberate reduction in economic inequality. Only one government has actively followed measures to ensure full employment, equal access to housing, education and healthcare. That government was the government of Attlee and Bevan. It created the NHS, a welfare system that prevented the worst forms of poverty, built 200,000 – 300,000 homes a year, nationalised every essential utility and industry, raised wages, built the transport, water, communications infrastructure that industry needed. AND IT REDUCED THE COUNTRY’S DEBT BURDEN BY FOLLOWING KEYNSIAN PRINCIPLES.uk debt gdp ratioLook at this graph of UK debt as a ratio of GDP. After the war it’s around 200%. Immediately after Labour win the election and set about their grand plan what happens? it spikes up to 250%, then falls. And falls. And falls. Look at where it is in 2010 – barely 70% of GDP. Yet now we need austerity because our debt is too high? We need to sell off our schools, libraries, hospitals to give no-strings-attached handouts to failed and criminal Bankers so they can keep their bonuses? We callously cut or stop the welfare payments to our poorest and most vulnerable while the richest take home the largest share of our national wealth since  WW1?top earners income share

The government that has singularly managed both economic AND social success was overtly Socialist. Only after Thatcher came to power, and the Chicago School brand of destructive neo-liberalism was installed as the default economic model was this trend of lowering inequality and rising living standards reversed. That’s right: In the UK we have proved Socialism creates wealth for all, capitalism creates extreme wealth for a few, and impoverishes everyone else. Right now we are almost back in the economic situation we were between the two World Wars, a great depression for the vast majority of our population, with mass unemployment, appalling poverty and utter hopelessness about the future. The cause both times has been the same. This is from Labour’s 1945 election manifesto: “In the years that followed [the First World War], the “hard-faced men” and their political friends kept control of the Government. They controlled the banks, the mines, the big industries, largely the press and the cinema. They controlled the means by which the people got their living. They controlled the ways by which most of the people learned about the world outside. This happened in all the big industrialised countries.

Great economic blizzards swept the world in those years. The great inter-war slumps were not acts of God or of blind forces. They were the sure and certain result of the concentration of too much economic power in the hands of too few men. These men had only learned how to act in the interest of their own bureaucratically-run private monopolies which may be likened to totalitarian oligarchies within our democratic State. They had and they felt no responsibility to the nation.”

So clearly, this economic soft-war, fought by “hard-faced men” is not a new occurrence. Its results are being repeated, and WE are paying the costs of it. Right now the richest Americans have around $21tn stashed in off-shore tax havens, while only $3tn is needed to eradicate poverty across the globe (according to the World Bank). At worst a one-off tax of less than 15% on this wealth would release enough cash to end global poverty. Not doing that is a deliberate choice to impoverish the majority of the world’s population, and to hoard wealth and power earned through the work of the same population being impoverished.

Thought no.3 Yes, EVERYTHING the pro-capitalists tell you is a lie even that convincing bit about efficiency in the private sector and waste in the public sector. I’ve written a brief piece about the lies they tell us about inefficiency before: [click here] but this film highlights two other examples: before the railways were nationalised the various companies ran “clearing houses” employing hundreds of people constantly shifting invoices and receipts between each other for each use of their rails, signals, workmen, rolling stock, or whatever else. This was abolished when nationalised, and those people put to work in much more useful ways. Before Thatcher installed her internal markets in the NHS, and started contracting out aspects of hospital functions administration costs were around 6% of NHS budgets. Today they are heading toward US-level costs of 18-25%. Capitalism is more wasteful, more expensive, less efficient. Fact. And it’s pretty flippin obvious that any system with competition, duplication, litigation, and most of all vampiric shareholders sucking the money out of the organisation is going to be less effective. Capitalism might have given us iPhones, but only using the infrastructure and education largely provided or subsidised through taxation and state spending, and only to benefit the owners and shareholders. Imagine if the wealth generated by such an enterprise was collectively owned by all. And imagine how much cheaper it would be if the costs were bourne by all, but didn’t include the costs associated with competition, advertising and shareholder dividends. There is nothing stopping innovation in a collectively-owned institution. Our NHS has lead the world in creating new treatments, interventions, diagnostics, health policies.

Thought no.4 They only get away with it because we have stopped fighting for our rights. Two things made this clear to me in Loach’s film. At the beginning were memories and discussion of the mood and motivation of the nation after winning the war, summed up by Beveridge’s report identifying five “Giant Evils” and describing how they could have been defeated before WW2 as in his words ” want, as defined in the social surveys, could have been abolished in Britain before the present war. As is shown in para. 445, the income available to the British people was ample for such a purpose.“, and what measures would need to be taken. They won a landslide victory on the basis of this report and the shaping of the manifesto around it. Labour would have the same victory in 2015 if they had the same policies, as the same five giant evils afflict us once more, caused by the same few “hard-faced men” accumulating too much wealth and too much power.

Later in the film miners and dockers told of their experiences of the strikes they took part in, the police brutality and changes to Union laws that broke the power of the workers, and the loss of jobs, wages and rights that resulted (and also a huge rise in the CEO’s pay relative to his workers, and a gigantic rise in profits taken by owners and shareholders). One man called for unified general strike action, even if it breaks Union laws, to reclaim some of the rights and wage levels that have been lost. Another described how important the NHS was, and how everyone should fight in any way possible against any attempts to destroy it. Well, that’s already happening. So maybe we should heed his words.

Conclusion: We need to wise up to this economic war, we need to wise up to its history, and we need to remember how we won the battle of ’45 and take great heart from it, because in that victory lies the blueprint to winning the war once and for all.

Also, we need enough sleep if we are going to acheive this. So I’d better get to bed.

Next steps in learning about the war: what the hell happened in the 60’s & 70’s that culminated in strikes and Thatcher?