Labour needs to rediscover comprehensive economic planning

manifesto1945In his barnstorming 2015 and 2016 Labour Leadership campaigns Jeremy Corbyn outlined a series of, very enthusiastically received policy offers of a distinctly left Keynesian, anti-austerity hue. These proposals ranged from renationalising the railways, to fully re-nationalising and refunding the NHS, establishing a universal free national education service, nationalising key utilities, controlling the banks more closely (the last two, significantly, subsequently dropped in the 2016 contest) and creating a National Investment Bank.  Unfortunately since his 2015 victory essentially nothing has been done to put flesh on the bones of these proposals, or indeed to position these disconnected proposals within a wider comprehensive radical Left Economic Programme.

This seems most peculiar to those of us old enough to have imbibed in our socialist youth the concept of socialism as intrinsically involving the modification, amelioration, and re-direction of priorities created by the unfettered free play of the capitalist Market, and their eventual replacement by a better, fairer, more rational, society beyond the capitalist marketplace. This transformational process was always seen by socialists as being driven forward by conscious, democratically determined, state-led comprehensive overall direction and planning, even in a still capitalist, “mixed” economy in a process of transition. Continue reading

The left must encourage people into unions – not work against their leaderships

gmb-trade-union-living-wage-campaignThere is an unfortunate tendency for articles nowadays to have sensationalist “click-bait” headlines, but by any standards the aggressive spin put on Michael Chessum’s latest piece in the New Statesman is highly unfortunate.

The headline screams “It’s time for Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters to take on the trade union leadership”. Nothing could be more counterproductive than seeking to mobilize supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party to intervene in internal union politics. Continue reading

Corbyn is right: Migrants don’t drive down wages

CorbynIn his recent speech to Labour Party conference Jeremy Corbyn said, “It isn’t migrants that drive down wages, it’s exploitative employers and the politicians who deregulate the labour market and rip up trade union rights.” This is excellent and entirely correct. It is probably the best statement ever made by a Labour leader on this issue. It used to be regularly argued, and not just by far right or fascist groups, that immigrant workers take British workers’ jobs. This has more recently been supplanted with the notion that migrant labour has driven down wages. Both are equally wrong.

The claims that immigrants take jobs became harder to sustain as the level of the overseas migrant population reached record highs in Britain at the same time as a record high level of employment overall and a record high for employment of UK-born workers. Continue reading

Alan Johnson’s amnesia about “New Labour” and the unions

Alan JohnsonWhere does political radicalism come from? There are many sources, but I would humbly suggest one of them is being blocked from participating in/being integrated into established political processes. And that brings us onto the minor farrago over Alan Johnson’s polemic against the “madness” of a Labour leadership contest dominated by Jeremy Corbyn. Alan is particularly concerned about the comments of CWU General Secretary, Dave Ward, who at the weekend likened Blairism to a “virus” in the Labour Party. While he might find such language “drivel“, there’s little sign he was similarly concerned about John McTernan’s moron comments, or John Mann’s desperate attempt to smear Jeremy as a paedophile enabler.

Now, of course, Alan is an intelligent man. Yet he cannot fathom why such rhetoric “should come from trade union leaders whose members benefited so much under the last Labour government.” After wheeling off the pig iron production figures and endorsing Yvette Cooper’s tepid campaign along the way, the only reasonable inference that can be drawn is that leading trade unionists haven’t got the foggiest. As he says of Dave, “I’ve known Ward for 25 years, during which he has never been a political activist. His interest was always firmly on the industrial side of the CWU.” Ouch.

Continue reading

Cameron’s Trade Union Bill is part of the government’s privatisation agenda

SJThe Conservative’s Trade Union Bill will have its first reading in parliament today. It has been described in today’s Daily Mail as “Cameron’s War on the strike bullies” and has been justified by the Business Secretary as “protecting working people” from the trade unions.

The bill would impose a minimum 50% turnout, public sector strikes would need the backing of at least 40% of those eligible to vote,and abusive behaviour, such as calling somebody a scab would become a criminal offence.

The bill is not just an attack on the rights of trade unions, it is an essential component of the government’s strategy to privatise the remaining public services by severely impeding the ability of public sector workers to challenge attacks on their pay and working conditions that are planned by the government. It is necessary for the government to drive down wages and reduce pension contributions in order to make services attractive and profitable when they are put out to tender. If these services aren’t profitable then no company will bid for the contract. Continue reading