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A Left Economic Strategy for Labour – putting meat on the bones

RichOnTop2Left Futures recently published an article of mine, Labour needs to rediscover comprehensive economic planning, in which I argued that Labour, and the radical Left generally, needed to rediscover the centrality of the need for a comprehensive Left Economic Programme both as a core policy offer for Labour, and as a guide and implementation tool for progressive transformation of the UK economy, and society, when in government.

After discussions with a number of other comrades about the article’s proposals, Danny Nicol and I decided to produce a model resolution for socialists within the Labour Party who agreed with my earlier article. We would hope this would be used, in whole or part, in LP branches vis a vis motions/submissions to the NPF and directly to the Labour Leadership Team. It might also serve as a model for motions to 2017 Labour Conference, though the restrictive word limit on “Contemporary Resolutions” will require we do a shortened version before then.

The first draft of our effort has already been amended after initial helpful comments by a few comrades. We view this as very much a “work in progress”, and very much welcome further input.

The Model Resolution is included below. But we have also worked up a much longer “Speakers Notes/Supporting arguments” document to accompany this, quite short, model resolution. Space constraints preclude this being included in this article, but the entire document, with its Speakers Notes, can be viewed HERE.

Danny and I propose that it would be a very good idea if all the NPF topic areas were similarly worked up as short, clear, leftwing model resolutions, since there is no sign so far that the NPF process itself is going to produce anything but vague “motherhood and apple pie” policy soundbites.

Resolution on a socialist economic programme

(This resolution is geared towards being submitted to the Labour Party National Policy Forum and the Party Leader and Shadow Chancellor)

“This LP Branch confirms its rejection of the neoliberalism pursued by the Tory government and its coalition predecessor and reaffirms its support for an anti-austerity alternative.

Accordingly this LP Branch calls upon the Parliamentary Labour leadership, in particular the Shadow Chancellor and other members of the Party’s economics team, to develop in Opposition and implement when in office a comprehensive programme of highly-integrated economic restructuring. This would be on a rolling 20 year forward timescale, divided into 4 year Plan periods amenable to review and amendment. This proposal presupposes that all other key topic areas of Labour policy, from education, to welfare provision, should be similarly integrated into a holistic vision for a prosperous, inclusive, UK. Key policy objectives of the Plan should include:

1. Taking back into public ownership key national resources and “natural monopoly utilities”, along with key, strategically vital, “commanding heights” major enterprises located in Britain.  The specific nationalisation list would be determined as the Comprehensive National Economic Plan was developed and refined. Early priorities should however include the major banks and insurance companies , the railways, the privatised parts of the NHS, steel, Royal Mail, telecommunications, water, gas, electricity and oil.

2. Implementing a major investment programme: a massive public-sector programme of job-creating and productive public works, including building and refurbishing millions of council houses, creating an efficient national road-rail interchange freight network, major clean (alternatively, ‘low carbon’) energy infrastructure projects and a world-class broadband infrastructure.

3. Rebalancing the economy so that it is far less dependent on the financial sector, and building up the manufacturing and other high export potential sectors (“manufacturing” in its broadest sense – from high value added/high tech physical products, to the digital, design/creative industries). Only a thriving (increasingly high-tech orientated) manufacturing sector has the potential to create good quality, skilled, jobs right across Britain.

4. Reining-in the financial sector. The speculative, highly destabilising, “casino banking” activities of the banking and wider financial sector will be tightly constrained by a wide raft of legislation in addition to public ownership. Also establishing a National investment Bank to spearhead large scale productive investment.

5. Shifting the regional balance of development. We will implement a dynamic regional development policy, away from our current, unbalanced, “London and South East centric”  development  model – pushing new job and wealth-creating new industries out to the currently deindustrialised English regions, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland (in partnership with devolved administrations). Hand in hand with this will be a major programme for dispersing currently London-based government ministries and other state institutions to core growth point cities across the UK.

6. Redistributing income and wealth.  We need to overhaul the tax system by introducing a radically income-redistributive taxation system. This must include closing all possible tax loopholes, avoidance schemes on high-end death duties, and closing down all UK-controlled offshore tax havens. Maximising the tax-take from large corporations and the rich will greatly help fund a massively-enhanced Welfare State and the recreation  of  our economic base.

This Conference calls upon the PLP Economics Team urgently to recruit  a powerful team of Labour-supporting academic and trades union research department economists to work with them to create a first draft of this programme.  This must be done alongside a broad nationwide consultative campaign to develop it further and to create a nationwide progressive consensus for its content and implementation.”


  1. Bill says:

    I will leave others to comment more specifically and give detailed consideration to. My main concern is that we can “call on” the various institutions as much as we like but nothing effectively will happen.

    A theme most of us make on here is that members must actually start MAKING policy and that the structures of the party need altering to that end.

    Certainly if we can collectively and quickly agree a draft motion and other such motions rather than constantly debate them we might get some momentum.

    1. Danny Nicol says:

      It’s a shame that the party leader’s own effort to democratise the party has now gone into reverse, but yes, pressing for a socialist economic programme would need to go hand-in-hand with measures which change the Party structure so that members make policy and so that such policy is actually implemented. The transformation of Labour Party conference into a fundamentally policy-making conference is long overdue, whereas mandatory reselection of MPs is an obvious starting-point to increase accountability over implementation.

    2. John Penney says:

      You are absolutely correct , Bill, that we on the Left can concoct the best possible policy proposals in the known political world, but as long as the Labour Right outmanoeuvre us organisationally we will never get a majority on the NEC and NPF , or at Conference, to actually CHANGE any of Labour’s existing “policy bundle. All of which still remain as per Ed Miliband’s failed “offer” in the 2015 General election – whatever Left policy soundbites Jeremy puts out.

      However it is also true that unless the Left within our Party (ideally with the promotion and blessing of the Corbyn Team) gets down to working up some detailed policy proposals to replace the existing , neoliberalism infused/privatisation accepting, Labour policy bundle, we have nothing to collectively present to the NPF, Conference, or the huge new post “Corbyn surge” Labour membership.

      So I repeat again our call for the Labour Left (probably with no help from the now firmly ” phone bank operator and leafletting support fodder” Momentum, or Jeremy’s Team ) to get down to the serious task of working up some serious, reasonably detailed, policy proposals in every one of the NPF topic areas. As well orf course as working to increase the representation of the Left within our Party’s key controlling bodies, from local CLP Management committees , to the NPF – to new Left Parliamentary candidates.

    3. Susan O'Neill says:

      Do you believe that Corbynomics had merit? I am not so interested in politics but am curious to know how you intend funding of the strategy proposed by JP,DN and CMacM.

      1. John Penney says:

        “Corbynism” ie, a radical state-led Left Keynsian expansionist economic strategy has plenty of merit. Even Trump is about to adopt an “evil twin” Right Keynsian expansionist strategy to “get the USA’s economic wheels moving again if his claims are to be believed !

        Such a Left Keynsian programme would be paid for by the usual sovereign state government methods, Susan. eg, Government tax revenues – massively boosted by closing all the tax loopholes and higher taxes for Big Business and the Higher earners, and the massive extra tax receipts from an economy not shackled by the Austerity/book balancing delusion. Government borrowing. When applicable, some “People’s Quantitative Easing” money creation on the Murphy model .

        Sounds like you are yet another of the Yvette Cooper school of “any expansionist Left Keynsian economic strategy must lead to Zimbabwean levels of inflation ” nonsense.

        You delude yourself that you are “not interested in politics”, Susan. You have simply imbibed an entire Daily Mail/Guardianista political framework without realising that you have done .

  2. C MacMackin says:

    I’ll comment in more detail later. However, one quick and minor thing: while I’m please to see some of my suggestions have been incorporated into this document, there was a slight misunderstanding with one of them. I meant to suggest that energy infrastructure should be referred to either as “clean” or as “low carbon”. There’s no need to refer to it as both. That said, thank you for taking my points on board.

  3. Terry McCarthy says:

    I agree with the general thesis however I think you rely too much on volume finance at the expense of the use of measures to increase purchasing power without an increase in expenditure
    Although Maynard Keynes understood phantom money is use has increased a thousandfold since the introduction of neoliberalism economics

    1. John Penney says:

      I am at areal loss to decipher this gobbledegook , Terry ! It appears to be a jargonised way of promoting that current no. 1 flavour of the month panacea for capitalist ills amongst “radical liberals”, ie, Universal /Basic Citizen’s Income(UBI).

      UBI is at root a Far Right Libertarian ,entirely neoliberal, proposal, which has “bled-over” into sections of the self identifying “Left” and Greens. It is firmly based on the ideas of the distinctly non socialist , authoritarian, 1930’s Social Credit Movement, and is an individualist, firmly capitalist market based, diversionary substitute for collective socialist policies, and mass action. Mass actionthat needs to focus on the re-establishment and deepening of the post 1945 universal Welfare State , and seizing back poer and wealth from the 1%. Citizens income completely ignores the class basis and grossly unequal wealth ownership and power distribution in capitalist society, and its implementation would destroy the Welfare State and penalise the poorest.

      If your incomprehensible post isn’t a concealed argument for UBI, then I suggest you write more clearly in future.

      1. Tim Barlow says:

        As a much put-upon Jobseekers’ Allowance claimant myself, UBI offers long-awaited relief from incessant pressure to find jobs that aren’t there and from the perverse tactic of making unemployment the responsibility of the unemployed. It seems like an excellent way of spoiling sadistic JCP (Jobcentre Plus) job coaches’ fun. With any luck it’ll throw them and the entire DWP onto the scrapheap. Then maybe they’ll taste welfare reform from the sharp end. It also seems like a good idea for combatting redundancy via automation. After all, robots don’t need paying, so that money can go into a UBI fund instead!

        1. John Penney says:

          What about simply having a humanely operated Welfare State, Tim ? Citizen’s Income , A bssic survival ration, ignoring individual levels of need, and the vast inequalities of wealth, actually gives to those sho don’t need it, and doesn’t take into acount the extra help, for instance , the extra help the severely disabled, require.

          We need to fight collectively for a Left Labour Goverment which will recreate a humane benefits system and legislates for a living minimum wage, and aims for full employment,. UBI is a diversion from the fight for any of these objectives.

          1. Tim Barlow says:

            Well of course a humanely operated Welfare State would be preferable (and I’m old enough to remember one!), but it seems like a distant memory now.

            And, yes, the needs of the disabled would have to be taken into account, too, but as a remedy for mass automation/redundancy it has some merit, surely? Or am I clutching at straws?

      2. Terry McCarthy says:

        may I respectfully suggest you reread Marx on phantom money and Marx on money value plus Maynard Keynes general theory
        Britain was totally bankrupt following the Second World War it achieved miracles because Maynard Keynes understood purchasing power could either increase or decrease individual purchasing power especially amongst the poorest in society Maynard Keynes was of course the chief economic adviser to Clement Attlee

      3. Terry McCarthy says:

        sorry but this form of ultra-leftism would not be given credence by the class

        1. John Penney says:

          Yeh I used to lecture on both Marxist and Keynsian economics, Terry. Keynsianism and Universal Basic/Citizens Income are only tangentially connected, Terry. And NOTHING Marx wrote on money actually supports the entirely capitalist-market centred pseudo economics of the obsessive Citizen’s income enthusiasts, much as you may wish to call to your support Marx or Keynes.

          I’m afraid my patience debating with money cranks such as yourself was long ago exhausted. You are simply wasting everyone’s time with your postings.

      4. Susan O'Neill says:

        Have you studied UBI as explained by Richard Murphy? It can work and it is not based on ignoring class distinctions, rather it does not politicize the class structure.

        1. John Penney says:

          Mr. Murphy (who I have read extensively) is a blinkered, religiously driven liberal, with delusions that “capitalism can be made fairer”. Al the myriad versions of UBI are a diversionary liberal policy with no relevance to a radical Left economic agenda. Richard Murphy is a pro capitalist liberal who seriously thinks simplistic panaceas like UBI and taxation policy alone can “tame capitalism”.

          This nonsense is fine for Lib Dems and Labour Rightists and Fabians, but no use for socialists – or any answer to todays global crisis of capitalism.

  4. Rob Green says:

    This is truly Stalino-Keynesian delusional shit. It’s about sixty years out of date. More probably. It treats the capitalist class as part of the solution. Utter tripe from beginning to end. An attempt to provide a technical bureaucratic solution to a political problem. We don’t want no welfare state we want a workers’ state.

    Here are the transitional demands that pose the question of working class power and socialism:

    1. A regime of full-employment. Not a desire for full-employment or an economic policy geared towards one-day eventually maybe achieving it but an actual regime whereby school and college leavers and unemployed workers who cannot find their own job are bought into the local workforce to share in the available productive work on the minimum of a trades union living wage. We must move rapidly to dramatically shorten the working week so that we can take care of our own children, aged parents and communities without the need for armies of social workers, police, slave-wage carers and baby farms.

    2. End the bail out of the bankrupt banks. Let them go under and take their staff, deposits and estates into administration to form a new State Bank with a monopoly of credit to prevent the private financiers from ever ripping off the nation again. This bank to lend at base rate to small business and to facilitate social investment in accordance with a democratic and sustainable plan.

    3. Socialisation of the property and monopoly mega-profits of the capitalist corporations and super-rich. Capitalism now represent an existential threat to the continued functioning of society and economy and democracy. It is time for the means of production to be held in common once again. Replace the Old School Tie-imposed fat cat managers and executives with leaders elected by the workforce and answerable to them, the consumer and the democratically constituted government.

    4. Repeal all anti-union legislation and support the formation of militias to defend working class and miniority communities, picket lines, demonstrations, meetings and other gatherings from fascist and state attack.

    5. For a Federation of Sovereign Nations to replace the Westminster Union and its fake democracy.

    6. For a New European Settlement based on socialist principles that does not treat workers like migrating cattle or condemn them to sink communities, estates and schools and which leaves the wretched imperialist neo-liberal EU behind.

    1. John Penney says:

      Thanks for that, David, I always love that “support the formation of militias to defend working class and minority communities, picket lines, demonstrations, meetings and other gatherings from fascist and state attack” ultraleft fantasy demand of yours.

      As usual you are actually “as one” with the Labour Right, the Tories, and the entire bourgeoisie, that there is “no alternative , not even the possibility of minor amelioration and reform, to the current globalise neoliberal status quo”.

      Other than your fantasy of a global, full cream, revolutionary socialist insurrection by a united , class conscious working class, that is. But that’s a fantasy for the terminally isolated, David. So you actually simply sit at your computer terminal and preach the utterly unattainable, feeling smug, but doing NOTHING.

      But then so does the entire “politics as religious dogma” tiny UK ultraleft, so you are terminally irrelevant, but not entirely alone.

      1. Rob Green says:

        Yeah you just keep making up shit as you go along and plough that zig zag path of yours between sectarianism and outright opportunism. There were those on the very eve of the Arab Spring saying there will never be a revolution in the Arab world … never. The only one tied to the Labour Bureaucrats is you and your Keynesian fantasies.

        1. Nick Wall says:

          Well if you must propose a resolution at this moment in history calling for the formation of working class militias I guess you have to be prepared to take a bit of stick !

          1. Rob Green says:

            We already have proto-militias in the form of workers brave enough to stand on pickets, on the doors of meetings, steward demos and of course stand against fascist invasions of our towns by fascists such as the EDL. Thank god for them. We need more of them and less of you as the fash and the bosses pump up the volume.

        2. Karl Stewart says:

          DavidE, you sound like someone from the old-style WRP.

    2. Terry McCarthy says:

      With respect I think your analysis belongs to the early 20th century. To achieve the aims you put forward would mean a level of class consciousness that could only be obtained gradually
      through an updated economic and social program on the lines of clause 4 part4 . The reason for this is one of the major weapons in the fight against socialism has been the implementation of the ideology as laid out by Hynek and others on the philosophical wing of neoliberalism. Which calls for the destruction of all outlets outlets of socialist theory Control of the media both through news films and programming to show capitalism in a good light and socialism as a negative force. Fortunately at this stage they have not taken over the social media given time they will
      Marxism is not static it evolves in each Epoque but there are some documents such as Lenins left-wing, communism and infantile disorder is as meaningful today as it was one it was written

      1. John Penney says:

        “with the greatest respect” , back, Terry, you offer nothing at all in your comments that is at all useful for Labour’s policy develpment. We do know full well that neoliberalism has successfully occupied too much of the “mindscape” of much of what passes for the “radical Left” today, never mind the rest of society.

        But, you must have noticed that the 30 year neoliberal ideological consensus now lies in tatters after the 2008 Crash, and the stagnation of the global economy since. The European “Left Surge” and Sanders, and Corbyn , and the malign re-emergence of distinctly 1930’s style pseudo anti globalist radical right Populism as a major political force across Europe and the USA are facets of this collapse of neoliberal ideology (eg, Trumpism, Le Pen, UKIP. Golden Dawn, etc, etc)

        That you seriously think that the socialist fundamentals we outline in our article , and supporting Speakers Notes is “just so early 20th century and irrelevant” actually says a lot more about your ideological shortcomings than the substance of what we are proposing.

        1. Terry McCarthy says:

          with the greatest respectApologies I thought this was a discussion site for economists not a political polemic.
          To analyse any economic situation you have to study and analyse the prevailing social economic and political climate.
          Don’t take my word for it. Read the forward introductory papers that Maynard Keynes published before his general theory paper.
          No need to reply

      2. Susan O'Neill says:

        Some very good ideas and suggestions here by serious minded concerned citizens.
        Social Media is, sadly under attack by fake neo socialist platforms and others are just out and out communist dictatorships. Unfortunately all of the communist and socialist ideology gets lumped in together just as E.A. Blair intended(Animal Farm was a direct stab at the left as was 1984 and he hated Trotsky, both these books were essential reading in the 60’s and 70’s throughout the school curriculum). p|igeon holing and Labelling is one sure fired way to disengage people from participation.

    3. Susan O'Neill says:

      Oh Dear. Words fail me. It is at this point anyone not a hard left socialist starts running for the door screaming Trots are galloping!

      1. John Penney says:

        You go and have a lie down in a darkened room then , Susan. All this radical socialist politics stuff is a bit scary isn’t it ! Strangely, nothing in our article would have seemed at all uber radical or “communist” to Harold Wilson in his “Butskellite” mixed economy , pre neoliberal era .

  5. Giles Wynne says:

    Jeremy Corbyn’s “house” needs to be more inclusive and inviting and some on the PLP need their mouths washing out with soap.
    Who the hell do they think they are ?
    With the Left more united, including greater politicizing of Trade Unions through Trades Councils, and British Policies for Britain. With a complete reform of Parliament and the will of the people, how can Socialist Policies lose ?
    But first the Left needs its own Media Station and a Special General Conference to endorse a mandate and manifesto for power.
    Instead of talking around the subject Britain needs someone to fix the plumbing and produce the food.Hands up only if you can do both, because the doers are in very short supply here !

  6. Peter Rowlands says:

    I have already expressed my support for this motion and the general approach which is suggested, which is essential if we are to make progress.I remain opposed to a 2020 commitment to nationalisation beyond rail and the privatised parts of the NHS, simply on grounds of over commitment, as our prime task will be to reinvigorate the economy and prevent a banking collapse. This means that immediate control of the whole banking system must be effected, including the shadow system based on hedge funds, to prevent capital flight, while the big banks must be broken up so that they are not’too big to fail’.
    I otherwise agree with John on UBI.

  7. Bazza says:

    I speak in support of this resolution and offer a few minor amendments and additions to hopefully enrich it further.
    Point 1 – third line down repace “nationalisation” with “democratic public ownership.”
    ARGUMENT: Focault was right to argue that words are powerful and when I hear “nationalisation” I think of top down, same bosses in control, distant, bureaucratic with staff and communities having no say.
    Democratic public ownership is the opposite practice to all of this and I believe we need new language for a socialism for the 21st C which counters Neo-Liberalsm.
    Point 1-add at the end “pharmaceuticals and some airlines.”
    ARGUMENT: Pharma will save the NHS billions, and enable research into “less profitable” conditions as well as making cheap or free drugs available to people with serious conditions to give these working people a few extra years of life. Airlines – less seats, more space for passengers (could even explore having a play area for kids?) but overall a better travel service for working people. Footnote – we also need to address land ownership.
    Point 2, line 4, after “freight network” add: “introducing free public transport.”
    ARGUMENT: Helps the transport poor, attracts people out of cars which helps the environment, more efficient, could lead to safer roads, quieter roads, fresher air, less stress on bus drivers from having to take fares, would encourage more people to cycle and we should have couriers on board to help passengers and for passenger safety (would relace jobs lost in ticketing offices etc.) and why do we subsidise employers by paying our own fares to work or buy cars and petrol for this?
    Point 3-at end add “and we should seek as locally sourced raw materials as possible as well as harnessing green technolgy as a source of power wherever possible.
    ARGUMENT – helps to develop local industry as well as environmentally friendly. Footnote on Point 3 John – as socialists whilst we may need factory workers I feel uncomfortable about having working class/working people as appendages of machines in soul destroying mundane work so perhaps we could think of shorter working weeks for this sector with good pay but plan in variety in work for those who want it. Just food for thought what with new technology, driverless cars, robotics etc.
    Point 4 – add at the end: “And Labour should not rule out occasional Windfall taxes on Big Business as well as a Financial Transaction Tax to help fund state-led public investment if required).
    ARGUMENT: This just adds a few more potential economic tools to the toolbox.
    Point 5 -at end could add “And MPs from the regions of the North, South, East and West of England could meet for a certain time in the year by region to make more devolved decisions.”
    ARGUMENT: Could help having more devolved power but without having to elect an extra tier of regional MPs and could meet in a regional council chamber (so no new build) and civil service to an extent already decentralised. Just some food for thought.
    Point 6, add at end: “And we encourage our sister parties in other countries to explore developing their own comprehensive enonomic plans.”
    ARGUMENT: This could help avoid having one socialist country having to stand alone. Footnote the last 2 lines are great in Point 6 and I hope this community engagement could include Open CLP Community Conferences where local working class/working people can come along and we discuss these ideas in small group workshops and suggest changes and additions (and we should do this on all issues up to the Election) – the biggest mass consultation excercise ever and we have the members to do it!
    Well done you two for your draft plan as a stimulus-response document.
    Yours in solidarity?

    1. Bazza says:

      Afterthought – would perhapscp help to try to amend the language to make it as brief and simple as possible (without changing the intentions) so we try to communicate with millions.

      1. John Penney says:

        Thanks a lot for your thoughtful contributions and suggestions , Bazza. Exactly the response we hoped for.

        1. Bill says:

          Yes I found Bazza’s ideas constructive and helpful John. Can you and Danny redraft the model resolution/s. Possibly , but entirely up to you, replace “call upon” to a more definite “requires” ?

          Post it again on Left Futures and lets actually DO SOMETHING collectively and progress it!

          1. John Penney says:

            Yes , Bill, once a lot more comrades have had a good opportunity for input we’ll try to do what you propose.

            It can’t have passed your notice though that most of the comments in response to our article have NOT been at all helpful, and don’t move the development off such a model socialist resolution along positively at all !

  8. Susan O'Neill says:

    OMG. Yet again I see a “socialist” agenda reduced to bitching and arguing as to whose mentor(Stalin, Marx, Trotsky and Lenin) is the bestest. As is so often the case, it all boils down to doctrines instead adoptive methodology and what works in a changing world. Keynes was probably the best mind in his concept of macroeconomics, precisely because it was able to reflect and adapt to undercurrents and shifts.

    No mention of a National Investment Bank by which the BoE could generate funding based on PQE investments without impacting the State and thus the Exchequer.
    No mention of the fact that some of the best economic minds in the world including Joe Stiglitz, Ann Pettifor, Picketty,Mariana Mazzucato and Ha-Joon Chang are members of Labour’s Economic Strategy Advisory Group.
    There was nothing wrong with Corbynomics in it’s founding elements and with the help of Tax Research and City University Professor Richard Murphy, we have all the boxes ticked. The problem is explaining it to Joe Bloggs who has no understanding of Economics or Fiscal Policy.
    That is where left of centre representatives can best serve a centrist orientated (or socialist) approach to Fiscal Responsibility that does not involve every man, woman and their uncle striking and forming picket lines, calling people who do not agree with certain aspects of the policies, names or otherwise insulting them and trying really hard to see the wood for the trees!
    As soon as the masses hear undertones of communism and hard left diktats they are going to run a mile in the opposite direction because the last thing they want is a return to the miners strikes which almost brought the country to it’s knees, unions with immense power dictating to the rest of the country and nearly bankrupting the country and slogans like “if your’e not with us, your’e against us”. Trust me when I say this, but most people will walk away and say “OK, your’e on yer own!”
    If you are not willing to enter into civil discussion and can only manage sneers of derision and stubborn refusal to exchange then socialists will be leftfield, yet again.

    1. John Penney says:

      A National Investment Bank is specifically reccomended in the supporting Speakers Notes. Space constraints preclude putting in anything but an outline. The exvellent Alertnative Economic Strategy I have referred to many times runs to 80 pages.

      Nearly all the Celebrity bourgeois economists of John McDonnell’s Economists Roadshow. have denounced Jeremy as Leader and his proposals , so They haven’t helped much have they?

      You repeatedly tell us proudly that you ” are not a socialist” , Susan, so why don’ t you simply hop off to the Lib Dems with your non socialist economic nostrums. You have nothing to add usefully on LEFT Futures.

      1. Rob Green says:

        No point having a National Investment Bank if it does not have a monopoly of credit. Just leaves the door wide open for the ruling elites and their financiers and bankers to rip us off to the point of the destruction of the welfare state and the economy as a whole. These forgers have to be stopped.

  9. Verity says:

    I think this is a very useful starting point for what could form a developing programme upon which specific policy can be elaborated. Of course, and quite naturally, at the moment it is an outline of what at some future point of refinement, could take the form of a pamphlet. I would like it to form a basis upon which much more detailed work could be conducted.

    I would personally like it to be subject to quite detailed elaboration rather mimicking the forensic attention that specific policies of Fabian pamphlets sometimes take – but avoiding their weaknesses, in Bazza’s words, of not becoming ‘a programme for’ but rather a ‘programme by’ …. Working people, which detailed programmes have the danger of becoming.

    As a promotional programme it serves socialist very well. However in getting it accepted for implementation we face some major challenges. One of these is that the culture of the Labour Party does not usually do, ‘comprehensiveness’. So this constitutes a big cultural change for the organisation. This is then exacerbated by the fact that Labour conferences adopt (usually specific) policies for the years ahead or for a four/five year (government) terms of office. The idea of being a part of a 20 year programme is quite alien. In particular policies adopted in one year are not usually integrated with those of another year. Even if they were, many (different delegate clusters) would not remember or link with those of a previous year, let alone say four years.

    A second challenge is that Socialists understand the need for a comprehensive programme and a comprehensive programme requires Socialists for its development and promotion. But how does that communicate with the majority of Labour party members. Indeed Socialists are a small minority within the organisation, with most using that descriptor as a vague statement of their humanitarianism rather than as an economic/political transformation and change.

    Implementation of such a programme requires (at least) four periods of continuous government. Any election loss presumably involves reversals to programme implementation. To date we have had no expectations of such an achievement. I have never taken the opportunity read or study the Labour Party’s electoral reversal of 1951, as the nearest equivalent we have had to a comprehensive economic programme, but I do need to learn about why Labour did not gain even one repeat period of government at a time of greater social cohesion than we can anticipate today.

    I did say that as a promotional measure this serves Socialists very well. I project that it would win support only when presented as distinct policies addressed on their own merits rather than as a feature of comprehensive programme. Socialists see the need of comprehensiveness and interconnectedness but in my view the majority of Momentum members, let alone general Trade Union or Labour Party members do not understand it. Implicitly, I think the authors have appreciated this point when referring to promotion of the programme in parts, But I would make this more explicit by recognising that we are working simultaneously at two different levels: individual policy development; and the interconnectedness of policies. If I was to attempt to attempt to present the comprehensive programme, I would likely be faced with either rolling, blurry eyes of incomprehension of the vision, or even worse the coming of 1984.

    I would suggest that offering a future ‘one year’ Labour Party conference with the expectation of a 20 year vision would meet with the same, and so serves no purpose except that of propagandist promotion which might serve some value but would not be my priority.

    1. John Penney says:

      You make many, many, insightful, useful points, Verity.

      Your points about “Labour simply not doing long term comprehensive policy formulation” is of course absolutely true historically.

      Somehow however, the radical socialists within our Party have to create a comprehensive long term objectives and policy “route-plan” , leading from the neoliberal disaster we are in now, to a much more rational ,significantly democratically planned, society operated in the interests of the majority . It could be that such a , regularly updated/amended, Comprehensive Programme/Plan, might be interrupted periodically, but without such a long term “line of march” Labour simply cannot break out from the ever more dire consequences for the majority of our population of a globalised neoliberal capitalism in crisis.

      A Labour Party that thinks it can continue with its traditional modus operandi, particularly of the last 30 years of neoliberalism-hugging short termist opportunism , “triangulating” in relation to every political current currently in vogue with a tiny number of ” Marginal Constituency swing Voters”, is doomed to be wiped out “Pasok-style” by the post 2008 Crash political turmoil that has destroyed all the old political structure certainties across Europe and the USA.

      My current gloomy prognosis , I’m afraid, is that a now thoroughly politically and personnel, “hollowed out” Labour Party that has already been wiped out for the foreseeable future in its former core heartland of Scotland (after a generation of corrupt cronyism and neoliberal policy arrogance – allowed the SNP petty nationalists to comprehensively outflank us on the Left), cannot make this shift from short-termist electoral opportunism to even radical Left Keynsian consistency around long term joined up policies.

      But I think it is beholden on those of us socialists drawn back into the Labour Party by the initial astonishing promise of the “Corbyn Insurgency”, to at least try to help create a potential radical way forward.

  10. Alex says:

    An extremely interesting discussion.

    I think the international dimension is by far the most important to attend to.

    The fact is that production has become socialised on a world scale during the last 150 years and more especially during the last 50. It would be strange, given their name, for socialists to seek to rescind this level of socialisation. It is necessary to examine very closely how a socialist state can interface with the world economy, simultaneously retaining the capacity to plan effectively, whilst also linking in with global production networks. China is the obvious example of a state that has done this very effectively, but its size, and other features, make it a model of limited use for study.

    The point I am making is that, whilst planning is one plank of socialist thought, socially interdependent production is another. We should not strangle the latter for the sake of the former. Nor, I think, do we have to. I think that people are too quick to raise the spectre of capital flight, investment strikes etc. This need not happen if the program is developed intelligently.

    On the issue of the “rolled eyes” that would be caused by talk of a comprehensive plan (raised in the previous comment), it is worth noting that “joined up government” is now just axiomatic good practice for the civil service. Society is interconnected.

  11. Terry McCarthy says:

    An excellent economic policy paper has been submitted to the policy review through unite.

  12. Karl Stewart says:

    I think this is an excellent articel/proposition and both JohnP and DougN are to be commended for their efforts.

    Having said that, I am disappointed by JohnP’s reaction to some of the criticisms. Yes of course, DavidE will rant come what may and can safely be ignored, but I thought JohnP’s comments and attitude towards Susan’s perfectly reasonable points were quite rude frankly.

    John, have a think why women don’t often take oart in online political discussion and then take another look at the tone you’ve adopted towards her please?

    Politicall, I definitely agree a lot more with your and Doug’s article than I do with Susan’s viewpoints, but a little respect and courtesy would be a good idea I’d suggest.

    Lots of people are going to be making similar points and we need to have thoughtful and reasoned political arguments in response – not “go and join the LibDems”.

    1. Rob Green says:

      Penney is a centrist arse hole. He talks the talks but will never walk the walk. The minute a truly radical position is posited he’s worse than any Blairite attack dog. All he is interested in is this pseudo technical shit that absolutely, definitely will not ever involve the working class as anything but subjects.

  13. Rob Green says:

    The Resolution is designed to put the working class to sleep if not get it killed. As if the PLP could implement any of that crap. Until socialism has a faction in Parliament that is there solely to propagandise for the socialist overturn of capitalism by the working class, its programme for doing so and to expose the fact that this wretched bourgeois parliament is an absolute obstacle to that aim then forget it.

  14. David Pavett says:

    I am entirely in sympathy with what I take to be the motivation for the proposed motion and with the arguments used to support it. It is certainly, as some have already said, a good starting point for debate. However, I think that trying to change Labour policy in the way proposed is likely to hit the buffers unless very big changes in LP attitudes take place first or simultaneously.

    My reasoning is not that the objectives are wrong but rather that as an open declaration of war on corporate control of the economy and of the levers of government it would not be enough to pass the motion at CLPs, the National Policy Forum and eventually Annual Conference. Were that to happen in the present state of understanding and discussion of such issues Labour would not have the wherewithal to defend itself against the barrage of detailed criticism to which it would be subjected.

    I have never agreed with the cynical dismissal of “resolutionary socialism” according to which lefties greatly exaggerate what is achieved by adopting policy proposals in poorly attended meetings. On the other hand we should recognise that such a process suffers from serious limitations.

    I know that in our current culture only small minorities ever get involved in detailed debates about such matters. Moreover, when debate spills out into broader public forums (as with the EU referendum) most of it tends to be far from anything that might be called serious debate. We need to accept and understand the limitations this imposes.

    If we want to fight for policies along the lines proposed by John and Danny (and I do) then we need to change received opinion first among Labour Party members and second among the general public. As Marx and Engels put it in the Communist Manifesto “the first step in the revolution … is to win the battle of democracy”. That means changing the basis of discussion about economic matters.

    I think that as matters stand the majority of Labour members do not believe that there is an alternative to capitalism. The spirit of this motion is that we can take a first step to move in a socialist (non-capitalist) direction. The implication has to be that from the first step we can move on to increasingly removing the power of private capital in order to create a genuinely democratic society. The problem is that these ideas currently would strike the majority of party members as far-fetched. The danger would therefore be that the tiny number of members who would be involved in passing this motion through CLPs would be out of joint with the great majority of party members. That would not be a adequate base from which to defend party policy when the onslaught starts to attach its “outrageous communistic” economic programme.

    I appreciate the work that John and Danny have done and it is a model of what should be done in other areas of Labour Policy. I hope that at least some readers of this thread are actively engaged in that. They have gone far beyond normal efforts to get resolutions through the party policy process with their speakers notes. But they have chosen such an central area of policy matters and on which there is virtually no discussion in the party that I think what they have one still falls far short of what is required.

    To change LP economic culture we need a collective effort to pick up on the work done over recent decades (for example The Economics of Feasible Socalism by Nove). We need to critically review the work of those on the left (e.g. John McDonnall’s advisory team) who argue that capitalism’s problems can be solved while remaining in a capitalist framework (e.g. in Reforming Capitalism edited by Mariana Massucato).

    While being in general sympathy with what John and Danny have done I think that there are a host of questions which remain to be answered on very practical matters. How would a flight of capital be prevented? Is democratic control the same thing as state control? How do the numbers for the various proposals add up? What would we do with a combined effort from the EU and the US to shut down a challenge to monoply dominance?

    Not only that but there are a series of theoretical issues related to such things as the nature of money and its control with various mutually exclusive theories competing for the support of the left. These things need to be sorted out too but there is virtually no discussion of them. Thus within Labour there are advocates of so-called “modern monetary theory” while others dismiss it as economic snake oil. There is not a fundamental economic proposition on which there is general agreement even just on the left. This is a situation of confusion which must be addressed. This is clearly more that a single individual (or even two individuals) can take on.

    We need a culture shift within the LP for any sort of serious move to the left on economic matters to be secure. My view is that we are a long way from achieving that. That is why I fear that this motion needs a lot more background work for it to be able to stand up to the blasts it would receive as party policy. For now I regret to say that we are a very long way from even thinking about providing such a background. Lots of work yet to do to get there.

  15. Peter Rowlands says:

    I have already replied to some of the points made in the initial version of the Nicol/Penney piece which was cited in a comment on the Dec.27th article by David on the NPF and education, and had some exchanges on these with John P and CMac, mainly concerning banking, capital flight and nationalisation.I otherwise generally agree with what David has said and the validity of the questions he has posed, although his tone is perhaps too pessimistic.If Labour in its first term can manage a significant Keynesian reflation without rampant inflation, capital flight or a collapse of the currency or stock exchange then it could be in a good position to make further progress in its second term. However, relations with the EU will be crucial determinants of this.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Well, C Mack decribed me as “cynical” and now you say I am “too pessimistic”. Perhaps I need a period of self-examination!

      But for that I would need to understand what it is to be “too pessimistic”. What is the right level of pessimism?

      I admit that I am do not believe that Labour is currently giving ground for optimism in its ability to tackle difficult questions in a clear, open and collective way. And on top of that economic issues from theory to practice are a particularly hard nut to crack and for which there is no clear basis for resolving differences.

      I believe that I don’t let pessimism based on what I observe slide into cynicism. If I did then I wouldn’t bother with political work or with writing articles and contributing to debate.

      I am not an economist but I try to understand the issues and I find the most fundamental differences in the Corbyn-supporting camp (let alone within the LP as a whole). So the issue for me is how can a genuine advance in general understanding, such as would be necessary to provide the backup needed when radical economic proposals come under attack, be achieved. I don’t have a ready answer so its a genuine question.

      John and Danny give examples of state-directed capitalism in other countries with different political and economic histories and different cultures. I would like to be convinced that the same thing can be done here without, unlike in the name countries, furious opposition of the ruling class being mounted? I don’t think that it is at all obvious that this could be achieved.

      Is asking such questions being “too pessimistic”?

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        To stop being pessimistic you must go around singing the Labour Party song ‘Things can only get better’!

      2. C MacMackin says:

        In fairness, I described a comment of yours as cynical. I did not mean to imply that you yourself are a cynic.

  16. C MacMackin says:

    I’ve been meaning to comment here for a while, but have been devoting a lot of time to researching and writing a series of articles on energy policy (which hopefully will be ready to submit soon).

    As I state when John and Danny posted their original version of this document, I definitely support it. It sets out the broad features of the sort of policy which any radical Left government would need to implement, and the speaker’s notes present good arguments to try to convince those in the party without exposure to such ideas.

    Unfortunately, David Pavett is also right in his post. The LP membership currently lacks the the capacity to seriously debate economic policy (or any other detailed policy). The institutions of the party certainly do not help with this. If the socialist movement is ever to win, we must build this capacity both in the party and in society itself. To my knowledge, this has never been fully accomplished anywhere in the world to date.

    David’s prediction of what would happen were such a motion to be accepted as policy given the current state of the membership have some historical precedent in what happened to the Meidner Plan in Sweden. In that case, the union leadership was sufficiently class-conscious to understand the need for the Meidner Plan, but they did not account for the need to engage with the broader union membership and convince them. As such, fierce opposition from capital (and parts of the middle classes) ultimately led to it being repealed. It also shows what can happen when the grassroots is able to force a policy on a party whose leadership does not want it; Olaf Palme could hardly be counted on to defend the Meidner Plan when he himself opposed it.

    On the other hand, in the context of the Labour Party, I have a hard time seeing John and Danny’s motion getting accepted as policy without a considerably improvement in the Party culture. Not to say that it would necessarily be sufficient, but debating such a policy within CLPs etc. could at least be a start in shifting the culture. If people can suggest other routes in this direction, I’d be happy to hear them.

    On Peter Rowland’s comment, I disagree with his view that there can be a separation of Keynesian measures from more structural reforms (such as nationalisation). Syriza tried such an approach in Greece and it failed badly (although, admittedly, the situation in Greece meant there was less room to manoeuvre than in the UK). As David Pavett speculates, any sort of Keynesian plan is likely to produce fierce opposition for capital. Given this, I suspect that the only way that such a plan could be successfully implemented would be using nationalisation to directly control parts of the economy. (Incidentally, David’s question regarding the difference between democratic control and state control is important and deserves further examination at some point.)

  17. Patrick Spence says:

    Are either John or Danny available to speak at branch meetings. I think that could be a starting point to get a discussion going. Alternatively hold a work shop for interested party members who might then run local workshops in their CLPs. Would one of the unions provide some resources to facilitate this? Ideally you need to get some endorsement from left unions and left groups such as the LRC, Compass and Momentum. The liberal wing of the Party will find this discussion a complete anathema.

    I am Chair of London Fields branch in Hackney and could host a meeting probably jointly with other local branches.

  18. Jonathan Rosenhead says:

    Apologies for lateness, I have just found this discussion.
    I think there is some confusion in the article and the motion that would need to be sorted out. I haven’t studied it in detail, but the impression I have is that the words ‘planning’ (including the comprehensive variety), ‘programme’ and ‘strategy’ are being used without much distinction. (I’ld be happy to be proved wrong by someone who has read it more thoroughly.)

    Why this matters is uncertainty. No one knows what unpredicted and unpredictable circumstances may arise within a year, let alone 5 years, let alone the 20 years that might be needed to deliver a programme of this magnitude. Think the unpredicted fall of the Soviet Union circa 1989/ the credit crunch that greeted Obama on his election/ the Brexit vote/ the Trump election. The unexpected is to be expected – its just that we don’t know its detail in advance.

    So yes the LP should go into an election with a comprehensive programme like this – what we want to do. But once (hopefully) in power we wouldn’t be able to do comprehensive planning for the delivery of that programme item by item. No government gets that luxury. The USSR, even with the near elimination of the private sector and considerable isolation from international trade, couldn’t manage it. Its central planning structure GOSPLAN performed with great inefficiency, and the economy only managed to survive through the self-interested activities of an army of fixers. GOSPLAN was too sluggish and sclerotic.

    The model resolution talks of ‘a rolling 20 year forward timescale, divided into 4 year Plan periods’. Although the words ‘amenable to review and amendment’ are added, in practice the turbulence of our times makes mention of a 20 year horizon seem out of touch with reality.

    The ‘programme’ is needed not to be implemented as conceived, but to give shape to the unwished for choices that will inevitably confront any government, especially of the left. This is where strategy, and strategic thinking, comes in. Our socialist government will need to decide which of the available choices (probably none of which is what we would ideally have wished to be confronted with) are more likely to take the country/the economy to a situation where further possibilities that are philosophically in tune with the original programme are more likely to be available. That is – we wont be able to implement the programme, any programme fixed at the outset. We need to learn how to scheme in a creative and principled way.

    I am worried that this talk about detailed socialist programmes to be implemented by comprehensive planning could be just a form of wish fulfilment. We do need to learn from historic failures, and think more about process, not just about product. The radical new programme that we do need can serve as a mobiliser for the election of a left government, plus a set of informative signposts for our initial direction of travel. But it cannot be a blueprint for what the economy or society will look like at any point on the time horizon.

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