Workers’ Chamber Book: Chapter Breakdown

As I mentioned in my last post, a year or so ago I wrote a pamphlet, about 22,000 words long, arguing that as parliament was filled with the extremely rich, who passed legislation solely to benefit the wealthy like themselves and the owners and management of business, parliament should have an elected chamber occupied by working people, elected by working people. So far, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I haven’t found a publisher for it. I put up a brief overview of the book’s contents in my last post. And here’s a chapter by chapter breakdown, so you can see for yourselves what it’s about and some of the arguments involved.

For a Workers’ Parliamentary Chamber

This is an introduction, briefly outlining the purpose of the book, discussing the current domination of parliament by powerful corporate interests, and the working class movements that have attempted to replacement parliamentary democracy with governmental or administrative organs set up by the workers themselves to represent them.

Parliamentary Democracy and Its Drawbacks

This discusses the origins of modern, representative parliamentary democracy in the writings of John Locke, showing how it was tied up with property rights to the exclusion of working people and women. It also discusses the Marxist view of the state as in the instrument of class rule and the demands of working people for the vote. Marx, Engels, Ferdinand Lassalle and Karl Kautsky also supported democracy and free speech as a way of politicising and transferring power to the working class. It also shows how parliament is now dominated by big business. These have sent their company directors to parliament since the Second World War, and the number has massively expanded since the election of Margaret Thatcher. Universal suffrage on its own has not brought the working class to power.

Alternative Working Class Political Assemblies

This describes the alternative forms of government that working people and trade unionists have advocated to work for them in place of a parliamentary system that excludes them. This includes the Trades Parliament advocated by Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trade Union, the Chartists’ ‘Convention of the Industrious Classes’, the Russian soviets and their counterparts in Germany and Austria during the council revolution, the emergence and spread of Anarcho-Syndicalism, and its aims, as described by Rudolf Rocker.

Guild Socialism in Britain

This describes the spread of Syndicalist ideas in Britain, and the influence of American Syndicalist movements, such as the I.W.W. It then discusses the formation and political and social theories of Guild Socialism, put forward by Arthur Penty, S.G. Hobson and G.D.H. Cole. This was a British version of Syndicalism, which also included elements of state socialism and the co-operative movement. This chapter also discusses Cole’s critique of capitalist, representative democracy in his Guild Socialism Restated.

Saint-Simon, Fascism and the Corporative State

This traces the origins and development of these two systems of government. Saint-Simon was a French nobleman, who wished to replace the nascent French parliamentary system of the early 19th century with an assembly consisting of three chambers. These would be composed of leading scientists, artists and writers, and industrialists, who would cooperate to administer the state through economic planning and a programme of public works.

The Fascist Corporative State

This describes the development of the Fascist corporative state under Mussolini. This had its origins in the ideas of radical nationalist Syndicalists, such as Michele Bianchi, Livio Ciardi and Edmondo Rossoni, and the Nationalists under Alfredo Rocco. It was also influenced by Alceste De Ambris’ constitution for D’Annunzio’s short-lived regime in Fiume. It traces the process by which the Fascists established the new system, in which the parliamentary state was gradually replaced by government by the corporations, industrial organisations which included both the Fascist trade unions and the employers’ associations, and which culminated in the creation of Mussolini’s Chamber of Fasci and Corporations. It shows how this was used to crush the working class and suppress autonomous trade union activism in favour of the interests of the corporations and the state. The system was a failure, designed to give a veneer of ideological respectability to Mussolini’s personal dictatorship, and the system was criticised by the radical Fascists Sergio Panunzio and Angelo Olivetti, though they continued to support this brutal dictatorship.

Non-Fascist Corporativism

This discusses the way the British state also tried to include representatives of the trade unions and the employers in government, economic planning and industrial policies, and suppress strikes and industrial unrest from Lloyd George’s administration during the First World War. This included the establishment of the Whitley Councils and industrial courts. From 1929 onwards the government also embarked on a policy of industrial diplomacy, the system of industrial control set up by Ernest Bevin during the Second World War under Defence Regulation 58a. It also discusses the corporative policies pursued by successive British governments from 1959 to Mrs Thatcher’s election victory in 1979. During these two decades, governments pursued a policy of economic planning administered through the National Economic Development Council and a prices and incomes policy. This system became increasingly authoritarian as governments attempted to curtail industrial militancy and strike action. The Social Contract, the policy of co-operation between the Labour government and the trade unions, finally collapsed in 1979 during the ‘Winter of Discontent’.

Workers’ Control and Producers’ Chambers in Communist Yugoslavia

This discusses the system of industrial democracy, and workers councils in Communist Yugoslavia. This included a bicameral constitution for local councils. These consisted of a chamber elected by universal suffrage, and a producers’ chamber elected by the works’ councils.

Partial Nationalisation to End Corporate Influence in Parliament

This suggests that the undue influence on parliament of private corporations could be countered, if only partly, if the policy recommended by Italian liberisti before the establishment of the Fascist dictatorship. Those firms which acts as organs of government through welfare contracts, outsourcing or private healthcare contractors should be partially nationalised, as the liberisti believed should be done with the arms industries.

Drawbacks and Criticism

This discusses the criticisms of separate workers’ governmental organs, such as the Russian soviets, by Karl Kautsky. It shows how working class political interests have been undermined through a press dominated by the right. It also shows how some of the theorists of the Council Revolution in Germany, such as Kurt Eisner, saw workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ councils as an extension of democracy, not a replacement. It also strongly and definitively rejects the corporative systems of Saint-Simon and Mussolini. This part of the book recommends that a workers’ chamber in parliament should be organised according to industry, following the example of the TUC and the GNC Trades’ Parliament. It should also include representatives of the unemployed and disabled, groups that are increasingly disenfranchised and vilified by the Conservatives and right-wing press. Members should be delegates, in order to prevent the emergence of a distinct governing class. It also shows how the working class members of such a chamber would have more interest in expanding and promoting industry, than the elite business people pursuing their own interests in neoliberal economics. It also recommends that the chamber should not be composed of a single party. Additionally, a workers’ chamber may in time form part of a system of workers’ representation in industry, similar to the Yugoslav system. The chapter concludes that while the need for such a chamber may be removed by a genuine working class Labour party, this has been seriously weakened by Tony Blair’s turn to the right and partial abandonment of working class interests. Establishing a chamber to represent Britain’s working people will be immensely difficult, but it may be a valuable bulwark against the domination of parliament by the corporate elite.

I’m considering publishing it myself in some form or another, possibly through the print on demand publisher, Lulu. In the meantime, if anyone wants to read a sample chapter, just let me know by leaving a comment.

Huge celebrations as champagne factory christened with cruise ship

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/11/2017 - 10:23pm in

Epernay (dpo) - Yesterday, tens of thousands of visitors attended a factory opening that appealed to the audience in quite a special way. The champagne manufacturer invited visitors and VIPs to the grand inauguration. The highlight of the ceremony was the cruise ship, which is traditionally thrown against the walls of the factory.
Read more »

France Unfairly Secure Rugby World Cup 2023 With Better, Superior Bid

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/11/2017 - 11:45pm in

A GREAT injustice was visited upon the Irish sporting community as France were unfairly awarded the right to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, with the international governing body of rugby not even taking into account the fact that we wouldn’t like that decision at all, WWN has learned. Unfairly weighing up the bids of... Read more »

Fabian Pamphlet on the Future of Industrial Democracy: Part 2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 12/11/2017 - 1:22am in

This is the second part of my article on William McCarthy’s Fabian pamphlet, The Future of Industrial Democracy, published in 1988.

The section on Ideas in chapter 3: Composition and Principles of Representation runs as follows

At this stage all one can do is propose a number of suggestions and options for further consideration by the Movement. I therefore advance the following cockshy in an attempt to start a debate. No doubt it fails to grapple with many of the problems and oversimplifies others. It should be regarded as written with the lightest of pencils. Three ideas come to mind.

First, why not retain the Bullock notion of a universal enabling ballot, to test whether workers in a given firm or establishment wish to exercise their statutory rights to participation? As the Bullock Report recognised unions would retain the right to “trigger” such a ballot in the groups they represented. Well-intentioned employers, in association with recognised unions, could agree to recommend the establishment of such statutory councils; but there would be a need to be a ballot of all workers involved.

Where a majority of workers voting favoured the establishment of participative rights the employer would be under a legal obligation to establish statutory joint councils. The composition of the workers’ side would be broadly defined by statute, as would be their powers and right. Management would be free to decide its own representatives who served on the council, but the statute would specify the obligations of the employee.

Second, why not let worker representatives emerge by means of a universal secret ballot-open to both unionists and non-unionists-with recognised unions enjoying certain prescribed rights of nomination? Here there a considerable number of European examples to choose from. In France and Luxembourg as I understand it, only unions can nominate for the “first round” of elections. If less than 50 per cent of the electorate vote there is a second election and any worker can nominate. In Belgium unions have an exclusive right to nominate “lists” of candidates where they have representative rights; non-unionists may make nominations elsewhere. Alternatively, there are systems where a given number of workers can nominate if unions fail to provide sufficient nominations. In the Netherlands, for example, any thirty workers can nominate in the larger enterprises, if unions fail to do so. In Germany any three workers can put up a candidate. For myself I favour certain limited rights of nomination in cases where unions are recognised. This is the area where the spectre of “company unionism” is most easily perceived and rightly resisted.

Third, why not specify that in areas where unions can demonstrate that they have members but no recognition any “appropriate” union has the right to make nominations? This need not prevent a given number of workers from enjoying analogous rights.

The section on Legal Framework also says

The best possible combination of nomination and electoral arrangements needs further thought than I can give it as this point. What I believe is that given suitable arrangements it would be possible both to safeguard the position of established unions and create conditions favourable to trade union growth; yet it would not be necessary to insist on a quasi-monopoly of representative rights confined to recognised unions. I suggest that after further debate within the Movement, Labour should propose an enabling statute which provides for joint participation councils in all private firms employing more than 500. The figure of 500 is itself open to debate. But in this way, I estimate it would be possible to show that the intention was to provide participation opportunities for something like 50 per cent of the private sector labour force. A worthwhile beginning to further advance, based on experience and proven worth. Where it was evident that a company employing more than 500 was divided into more than one “establishment” or was composed of a group of companies under the overall control of a “holding company” or its equivalent, power would exist to demand additional joint councils, with rights related to decisions taken at appropriate management levels.

Consideration would need to be given to the creation of a similar framework of rights in appropriate parts of the public sector of employment. So far as I can see there is no good reason why workers in the nationalised industries, national and local government or the NHS should be deprived of statutory rights to participate in management decisions affecting their working lives. No doubt the representation of “management” will pose different problems, the appropriate levels of joint councils will need to be tailor-made to fit different parts of the public sector and there will be different problems of confidentiality. But I doubt if the needs of workers and the benefits to both employers and the public will be found to be all that different.

It will be said that this cockshy for further consideration is superficial, with several critical problems and difficulties left unresolved. Those who like its general drift, but feel fear that the sceptics may have a case, could not do better than look again at some of the less publicised parts of the Bullock Report. One of the more lasting services performed by the Committee of Inquiry was that it set out to explore and overcome almost all the practical objections that could be raised to any form of statutorily based workers’ participation (see Bullock op. cit. chapters 11 and 12).

For this reason its says wise and relevant things about the need to avoid allowing all kinds of exceptions to a participation law, based on the alleged differences that are said to exist in banks, shipping lines, building firms and other parts of the private sector where employers would like to escape the effect of legislation. It also provides a clear account of the problem of “confidentiality” and how best to deal with it. It makes a convincing case for an Industrial Democracy Commission (IDC) to administer and apply the legislation and monitor its effects in an objective and impartial way. (In our case an additional essential task for the IDC would be to decide when multi-level joint councils were justified in the case of a particular firm or group of firms.) Above all, perhaps, it provides a guide through the complexities of company structure-with its spider’s web of holding boards, subsidiary boards, parent companies, inter-locking “subsidiaries” and “intermediate” organisations. It even follows these labyrinth paths into the upper reaches of British and foreign-based multi-nationals.

Of course the Committee’s primary objective in tracing out the lines of corporate responsibility and influence was to decide how to apply its own benchmark of “2,000 or more employees”. After much consideration they decided that this should apply “…to the ultimate holding company of a group which in toto employs 2,000 or more people in the United Kingdom, as well as to any individual company which employs 2,000 or more people in the United Kingdom, whether or not it is part of a group” (Bullock, op. cit. p. 132).

With appropriate emendation to fit the lower thresholds advanced in this pamphlet the Bullock formula seems to me to provide the essence of the right approach.

It is also important to remember that the legal framework advanced above would its place alongside Labour’s overall programme for extending rights at work-eg the restoration of trade union rights, improved rights of recognition and an expansion of individual rights against employers in cases of unfair dismissal and discrimination. All British workers would gain from such a programme and good employers should have nothing to fear.

The proposals should also be seen against the background of the first report of the Labour Party National Executive Committee’s People at Work Policy Review Group, with its emphasis on the need for a new training initiative and action to raise economic efficiency and the quality of life at work.

A legal framework of the kind envisaged here would provide trade unions and trade unionists with unrivalled opportunities. In areas where unions were recognised union representatives would find it easier to service members and influence the decisions of management. In areas where non-unionism is now the norm there would be greater incentives to organise and recruit; it would be easier to demonstrate what unionisation could do and easier to move to a situation in which recognition became a natural development. Of course, unions and their workplace representatives would need to become experts in explaining and using the rights embodied in the new framework. There would be a need for professional and prompt guidance and support in local and national union offices.

Unions should also find it easier to tackle their media image as negative and reactionary forces-opposed to the narrow “consumerism” peddled by the Government and its allies: engaged in a perpetual battle against management-inspired improvements in productivity and efficiency. In time, and before very long, it should be possible to demonstrate the contribution which can be made by the right kind of alliance between management, workers and unions. Benighted market men and women can be relied upon to misunderstand and misrepresent any teething problems and difficulties that arise; but for trade unionists of all sorts and persuasions there will be very little to lose and a great deal to gain.

This article will conclude in Part 3, which will discuss the pamphlet’s last chapter, Summary and Conclusions.

Fabian Pamphlet on Workers’ Control in Yugoslavia: Part 2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/11/2017 - 6:37am in

Continued from Part 1.

The Role of the Trade Unions

It is usually assumed that in a capitalist economy the Trade Union movement fulfills a different and essentially more democratic role than the unions in a country such as Yugoslavia. It is said that by remaining independent of management and government the unions provide the essential element in any democracy, that of opposition. This has always been one of the stumbling blocks which any advocate of workers’ control must encounter. An understanding of the role of our own trade union movement is a necessary first step towards working out a programme for democratising industry which does not fall foul of this traditional objection. This understanding may be furthered by an appreciation of the position of trade unions in other countries where social systems are different. In Britain it may well be that the trade unions become more and more committed to the status quo in industry, so their opposition function is weakened. The respect for national collective agreements, the support of the leadership for the current productivity drive, the discouragement of unofficial strike action, the rejection of co-ordinated industrial action to break the pay pause, and finally the decision to join the NEDC suggest that the unions are moving towards the position of partners in a managerial society.

The simple distinction between free trade unionism in a capitalist society, and trade unions in a communist state which become organs for the implementation of state policy, becomes increasingly blurred. We should think instead of a spectrum of relative degrees of independence from the state, ranging from the Russian trade unions at one extreme, through Yugoslav, Scandinavian and Dutch, to the British and American movements at the other, with perhaps the Communist Unions of France and Italy as the least committed to the state. The recognition of this trend does not imply advocacy of a general strike mentality over the pay pause, for example, but we need a more honest recognition of what is taking place. We should admit first that it is inevitable that the trade unions will move in the direction of close co-operation with government, and towards a ‘national interest’ point of view. As this trend continues, the worker is faced with the growing prospect of an alliance between government, employers and unions. In this situation union leaders no longer express the independent sectional and industrial aspirations of their members. Partly because of this, the role of the voluntary rank and file element in trade union government appears to be diminishing and its functions are being superseded by paid officials. The unions are becoming agencies run for their members and not by them.

With the weakening of the elements of opposition and participation there is a need to seek alternative means by which employees can express themselves in the government of industry. This need arises not only from a consideration of industrial democracy, but also of industrial efficiency. Appeals for increased industrial production, such as British Productivity Year, evoke slight response because they are based on an assumption of team spirit and equal partnership which is excluded by the very nature of social relationships in a private enterprise economy. Yugoslav experience strongly suggests that increased productivity is one of the results of their form of industrial democracy. However if democratisation in industry is advocated solely on grounds of higher productivity, it will be received with suspicion. The question would not be how much power and control can we give to democratic forms of management, but rather how small a concession will be necessary in the interests of productivity. Such a path would reproduce the history of progressive disillusion which has befallen Joint Consultation. Thus the idealist exponent of workers’ control may claim to solve must fully the economic problem of incentive.

In Britain, advocates of workers’ control have traditionally thought in terms of Trade Union management of industry. Efforts in this direction have always ended in a blind alley, since the objection that this involves a dual loyalty for the union is a valid one. As we have seen, the Yugoslav system does not involve Trade Unions in the direct management of the Enterprise. It suggests not only a new role for the Unions, but also the practical constitutional forms for the management of the firm by its employees.

The role of the unions in such a system is that of a mass social institution representing the wider national interests of the workers and tackling problems such as the overall levels of incomes and income structure, labour productivity etc. As we have suggested, there is already a tendency for British unions to assume such a role, and the doubts which we have raised about the desirability of this trend would be dispelled if the unions were operating within the framework of an industrial democracy. If workers had legally guaranteed rights of management then the need for the union to be an instrument of opposition is weakened. However, unions could still continue to protect the interests of their members by taking up grievances on behalf of groups and individuals who are in dispute with the elected management bodies. They should certainly seek to influence the decisions and activities of management bodies, but should not be tied to them in an institutional sense.

Workers Democracy in Britain

In considering the relevance of the Yugoslav model to British conditions, two objections may arise. The First concerns the compatibility of Industrial democracy and the private ownership of industry. Does it not challenge the very origins of power which are possessed by the managers of private enterprise firms? Is it not desirable for the Labour movement to give much closer attention to the possibility of introducing experimental forms of workers’ control within existing nationalised industry. This would demonstrate the practicability of the method and point a way to the fully democratic society at which the socialist movement aims.

The second objection is more difficult to counter. Yugoslavia is a one party state. is it likely that in a multi-party state, industrial democracy could be introduced with any guarantee of its permanence? Would not the anti-socialist forces exert such pressure that the system was undermined whilst it was being introduced, and abolished at the first opportunity presented by the return of a Conservative government? It is probably true in Yugoslavia that the permission of opposition views and organisations could generate counter-revolutionary forces which would seriously retard the evolution of the system. The government and the Party clearly fear this. Thus after flirting with Djilas’ heresies, which included the advocacy of a second – though socialist – party, the leadership decided against taking the risk. This is the point at which Yugoslav experience ceases to be helpful to us.

We should not therefore assume that the introduction of industrial democracy in the British context is impracticable. There are signs that unease concerning status at work has penetrated through to the political arena. Liberal party references to ‘syndicalism’ and the long-awaited Conservative Industrial Charter are manifestations of this. These schemes relate to the improvement of the position of workers within the present hierarchical framework, and do not tackle the root of the problem. We would expect that the early demonstration of the viability of a system of democratic control within the nationalised industries would generate enthusiasm for the idea and lead to demands for its extension. The British political system certainly restricts the speed of change, but a change which has become truly popular is difficult to reverse (e.g. The National Health Service). We believe that the Labour Party could, by taking the first steps towards democracy within nationalised industry, transform what has been an electoral embarrassment and a millstone into its biggest asset.

See Part 3 for my own conclusions.

Democratic Socialist on Liberalism, Classical Liberalism and Fascism

I’ve blogged several times about the connections between the Libertarianism of Von Mises and Von Hayek and Fascism, and the 1970s Fascist coup in Chile led by General Pinochet, which overthrew the democratically elected Communist president, Salvador Allende. I reblogged a video the other day by Democratic Socialist, in which he showed that Pinochet, contrary to the claims made by the Von Mises Institute, was indeed a brutal dictator, and that his rescue of Chilean capitalism, threatened by Allende’s entirely democratic regime, was very similar to Hitler’s seizure of power in Nazi Germany.

In the video below, Democratic Socialist explains the difference between the Liberalism of the Enlightenment, and the ‘Classical Liberalism’ of Von Mises and Von Hayek, both of whom supported Fascist regimes against Socialism and Democracy. In Von Mises case, he served in Dollfuss’ ‘Austro-Fascist’ government, while his pupil, Von Hayek, bitterly denounced democracy, supporting the regimes of the Portuguese Fascist dictator Salazar and then Pinochet’s grotty dictatorship in Chile. Von Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, claimed that a planned socialist economy was also a threat to freedom, and influenced both Winston Churchill and Maggie Thatcher. And the latter was a good friend and admirer of Pinochet.

The video begins with Democratic Socialist drawing a distinction between Enlightenment Liberalism, and ‘Classical Liberalism’. Enlightenment Liberalism was a revolutionary force which challenged the power of the feudal aristocracy and the clergy. It championed freedom of belief, the right to free speech and assembly, freedom of the press and the right to a fair trial. It also stated that people had a right to private property.

Von Mises, the founder of ‘Austrian economics’ and ‘Classical Liberalism’, declared that the essence of his political and economic system was private property, and was hostile towards both democracy and socialism because both appeared to him to challenge the rights of the owners of the means of production. Thus he supported Dollfuss during the Austrian Civil War, when Dollfuss suppressed the socialists and Communists with army. The video includes a clip from a British newsreel showing Austrian soldiers shooting at the houses in the working class suburb of Vienna, into which the Schutzbund – the ‘Protection League’ formed by the Socialists and Communists – had retreated following Dollfuss’ attempt to suppress them by force. The voiceover describes Dollfuss as ‘diminutive’, and a still from the footage shows an extremely short man in uniform surrounded by various uniformed officers. Which seems to add him to the list of other dictators of shorter than average height – Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Franco. The Nazis themselves were profoundly hostile to the Enlightenment. After the 1933 seizure of power, Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazis’ chief ideologist, declared that the legacy of 1789 – the year of the French Revolution – had been ended by the Nazi coup.

After the War, Von Hayek’s attacks on socialist planning in The Road to Serfdom led Churchill to make a scaremongering speech about Labour in the 1945 election. Socialist planning, the great war leader declared, was abhorrent to the British people, and could only be imposed through a ‘Gestapo’, which he had no doubt, would be very humanely carried out. The video shows two senior members of the Labour party, one of which was the former Chancellor of the Exchequer under Callaghan, Denis Healey, describing how horrified they were by this slur against people Churchill had worked so closely with during the War.

In fact, Churchill’s lurid rhetoric had the opposite effect, and encouraged more people to vote for the Labour party so that they won with a landslide.

The video goes on to cite the texts, which document how Von Hayek declared his support for Salazar in Portugal, stating that he would preserve private property against the abuses of democracy, and how he claimed that the only totalitarian state in Latin America was that of Salvador Allende. Who was elected entirely democratically, and did not close any opposition newspapers or radio stations. Democratic Socialist also shows that Thatcher herself was a profound admirer of Pinochet, putting up a quote from her raving about his dictatorship. He also states that Thatcher, like Pinochet, also used the power of the state to suppress working class opposition. In this case, it was using the police to break up the miner’s strike.

Democratic Socialist is right in general about Enlightenment Liberalism being a revolutionary force, but many of its leaders were by no means democrats. The French Revolutionary was also keen to preserve private property, and the suffrage was based on property qualifications. Citizens were divided into ‘active’ and ‘passive’ – that is, those who possessed enough money to qualify for voting, and those who did not. This was also true of the American Founding Fathers, who were also keen to preserve the wealth and privileges of the moneyed elite against the poor masses. The fight to extend the franchise so that everyone had the vote, including women, was a long one. Britain only became a truly democratic country in the 1920s, after women had gained the vote and the property qualification for the franchise had been repealed. This last meant that all working class men had the vote, whereas previously only the wealthiest section of the working class – the aristocracy of labour – had enjoyed the franchise following Disraeli’s reforms of 1872.

The British historian of Fascism, Martin Pugh, in his book on British Fascism Between the Wars makes this point to show that, rather than having a long tradition of democracy, it was in fact only a recent political innovation, against which sections of the traditional social hierarchy were strongly opposed. This was the aristocracy and the business elites. He states that in Britain the right to vote was connected to how much tax a man paid, and that the principle that everyone had an innate right to vote was rejected as too abstract and French. This distrust of democracy, and hatred of the forces of organised labour, that now possessed it, was shown most clearly in the upper classes’ reaction to the General Strike.

As for the other constitutional liberties, such as a free press, right to a fair trial and freedom of assembly, Pugh also states that the 19th and early 20th century British ‘Liberal’ state was quite prepared to suppress these when it suited them, and could be extremely ruthless, such as when it dealt with the Suffragettes. Hence he argues that the Fascists’ own claim to represent the true nature of traditional British government and values needs to be taken seriously by historians when explaining the rise of Mosley and similar Fascist movements in the ’20s and ’30s.

Democratic Socialist is right when he states that the Classical Liberalism of Von Mises and Von Hayek is Conservative, and supports the traditional feudal hierarchy of the aristocracy and church as opposed to the revolutionary Liberalism of the new middle classes as they arose in the late 18th and 19th centuries. But I don’t think there was a clear division between the two. British political historians have pointed out that during the 19th century, the Liberal middle classes slowly joined forces with the aristocracy as the working class emerged to challenge them in turn. The modern Conservative party, with its ideology of free trade, has also been influenced by one aspect of 19th century Liberalism, just as the Labour party has been influenced by other aspects, such as popular working class activism and a concern for democracy. Von Mises’ and Von Hayek’s ‘Classical Liberalism’ can be seen as an extreme form of this process, whereby the free enterprise component of Enlightenment Liberalism is emphasised to the exclusion of any concern with personal freedom and democracy.

One Zionist view of the Balfour Declaration

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 04/11/2017 - 4:59am in

The State of Israel came into being thirty-one
years after the Balfour Declaration, precisely because Zionist Jews were done
entrusting their fate to others.

lead President Chaim Weizmann, who was a science professor before becoming Israel's first president, March, 1949. Wikicommons/ Hugo Mendemson. some rights reserved.After wading through a number of articles giving a retrospective,
or more accurately, anachronistic views of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, I wish
to contribute to the discussion.

I will begin with an interview I heard on the radio recently. The
person being interviewed was Yehuda Meshi Zahav, of the anti-Zionist Eida
Haredi movement, famous for organizing anti-government acts including burning
Israeli flags, fasting and wearing mourning clothes on Israel Independence Day
and other such activities. He is an eleventh generation Haredi Jew and he is
the last of his line of anti-Zionists. Today he heads the ZAKA organization,
which deals with the collection of the dead from terrorist attacks, traffic
accidents and natural disasters as well as giving first aid to casualties as
first responders. In 2012 his son was drafted into the IDF and served in a
combat unit. What I found interesting was how real world situations impacted on
ideological beliefs. More to the point, I was impressed by how Yehuda’s earlier
beliefs and actions are not particularly relevant to evaluating his activities
today or those of his son. In the same way I found most of the discussion
evaluating the Balfour Declaration not particularly relevant to the situation

Zionists and Practical Zionists 

Historically the Balfour Declaration was a consequence of several
factors. From the earliest days of the Zionist movement, it was considered
important to gain international recognition. Theodor Herzl saw this as a
necessary objective without which there could be no Jewish state. Other
Zionists were not as convinced as Herzl and saw establishing facts on the
ground as being more important. This was the difference between the Political
Zionists and the Practical Zionists as they were referred to then. There was a
great deal of irony in this division within the Zionist movement. Herzl led the
Political Zionists and was singularly unsuccessful in getting international
recognition. During his time as a leader of the Zionist Movement and almost as
an afterthought, he set up the institutions which enabled the practical
successes of state building, without which there would be no State of Israel
today. Despite this, Herzl died thinking that he had been a failure because no
international recognition had been achieved.

In 1917 the recognition that Herzl sought was achieved through the
efforts of Chaim Weizmann, who later became the first President of Israel and,
ironically, during Herzl’s time was one of the leading Practical Zionists. Though
in simplified Zionist mythology, Weizmann was granted the Balfour Declaration
because of his contribution to the war effort, in fact Weizmann was aided by
other Zionists who gained crucial approval from the French and Italians before
the British war cabinet issued the declaration.

This was accompanied or shortly followed by approval from Prince
Feisal, a significant Hejazi Arab leader, and vague approval from President
Wilson. The British-Zionist negotiations were part of the war diplomacy which
included the Hussein-McMahon correspondence with the Arabs of the Hijaz and
negotiations between Ibn Saud and the British colonial administration in India.
These were all in addition to negotiations about the same areas between
Russian, French and British diplomats. All of this wartime diplomacy had a major
impact on post-war developments but none of it played out in the way specified
in the agreements concluded by the participants.


The Balfour Declaration was not all that the Zionists wanted in the
way of international recognition, but like many partial Zionist achievements,
the Zionist leadership made do with what they received. The Balfour Declaration
became firmly established in international law in the San Remo Conference and
was written into the decision of the League of Nations to award the mandate to
Great Britain.

So, finally, the Zionist movement had achieved Herzl’s dream of
international recognition. However, in the political realities of the post-war
world, this meant less than Herzl had hoped. In several stages the British
government first distanced itself from the declaration and finally completely
abandoned it. The first distancing came when Britain unilaterally partitioned
the mandate to create the Emirate of Transjordan. In the following years the
British government placed limitations on Jewish land purchases and immigration.
All of these were acts designed to advance British imperial interests and
especially to gain the good will of the various Arab leaderships. The British
government completely abandoned the Balfour Declaration when it issued the
White Paper of 1939. The Arab leadership of the mandate, to the detriment of
their cause, did not appreciate these British moves at the time. Nor do they
now. For the most part Israeli and British current commemoration of the Balfour
Declaration tend to ignore these developments as well.

The British abandonment of the Balfour Declaration continued during
and after World War II. The British government abstained in the UN General Assembly
vote to partition the mandate into a Jewish and an Arab state. The most
successful Arab army in the 1948 war was financed and armed by the British
government, led by British officers and non-coms and was given specific permission
to engage in the war by the British Foreign Secretary. It took the British
government a full year to extend de facto recognition to the Jewish state and
almost another year to extend de jure recognition. The British Government
abstained on Israel’s request to become a member of the United Nations.

 “We’ll take it from here.”  

As a Jewish Zionist Israeli, what do I make of all of this history
and the current discussion? In my reading I came across a portion of an
by Einat Wilf which summarized my views. I will end this essay with
a quotation from that article.

“The idea of Jews as
active players in history – as masters of their fate — still grates on the
consciousness of peoples and civilizations that were structured on the
presumption that the Jews should have headed to the dustbin of history. For too
many, the story that Jews could attain something for themselves by operating,
as all peoples do, on multiple fronts – diplomatically, economically,
militarily – is still so fanciful that to some, the story of Israel only makes
sense if presented as a series of handouts by foreign powers with shady motivations.

To the chagrin of those who want to put the Jews back “in their proper place”,
the State of Israel came into being thirty-one years after the Balfour
Declaration, precisely because Zionist Jews were done entrusting their fate to
others. Through their actions, from 1917 on, the Zionist Jews simply said to
Britain, and the world: “Thank you very much Lord Balfour. We’ll take it from

Mayor of Tel Aviv showing the city to Lord Balfour, 1925. Wikicommons/ Matson Photography collections, Library of Congress. Some rights reserved.

Related stories: 

Zionism, anti-semitism, and the Balfour Declaration

100 years after Balfour: the reality which still shames Israel

100 years later: getting beyond Balfour

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Thoughts and Prayers with the People of New York after the Terror Attack

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/11/2017 - 5:19am in

This is just to say that my thoughts and prayers of with the good folks of New York, and particularly the family and friends left bereaved by the terrorist attack this morning. I have no doubt that the perp will be caught and brought to justice for this appalling crime.

And my prayers and thoughts are also with the other victims of terrorism, unjust war and the butchery and enslavement of innocents around the world, whether in New York, London, Paris, Madrid, or Moscow, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

This isn’t about the West versus Islam or the peoples of the Middle East. ISIS has committed more terrorist acts, and maimed, butchered and enslaved the peoples of that region, whether Muslim, Christian, Yezidi or whatever, than it has killed westerners. It’s about ordinary men and women the world over standing together against hate, bigotry, cruelty and genocide.

And in my view, this also means standing against those politicians, arms manufacturers and defence contractors, who use these vile and despicable acts as a means of promoting further war and exploitation of the Middle East, and of the western taxpayer back home, simply for the big bucks this will bring their management and shareholders.

My very best wishes for the people of this greatest of American cities in this hour. And for everyone else, who wants peace, love and justice, wherever they are in this world.

Liberation: «En Europe, les chiffres prospèrent, les gens désespèrent»

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/10/2017 - 7:17pm in

L’ancien ministre des Finances de Tsípras, qui a lutté bec et ongles contre l’austérité et vient de publier un livre au vitriol, dénonce les «mensonges» de la crise grecque. Et regarde d’un œil plus que sceptique la politique de Macron.

Il l’avait promis, il a osé le faire : peu après sa démission du poste de ministre des Finances du gouvernement grec, au début du mois de juillet 2015, Yánis Varoufákis avait révélé avoir secrètement enregistré certaines réunions de l’Eurogroupe, ce club informel des ministres des Finances de la zone euro. Il s’était alors engagé à en dévoiler le contenu dans un livre. On peut désapprouver le procédé, ou même ne pas apprécier le style de ce fringant professeur d’économie, aujourd’hui âgé de 56 ans, qui a dû faire l’effet d’un ovni au milieu des austères costumes gris des réunions européennes. Reste que Conversations entre adultes ne se résume pas à une simple transcription des meetings à huis clos : c’est aussi un récit haletant du rapport de forces, parfois d’une brutalité inouïe, imposé à un ministre dont le principal tort était d’avoir été nommé au sein du premier gouvernement anti-austérité jamais élu en Europe.

Durant cent soixante-deux jours, de janvier 2015 et jusqu’à sa démission, Yánis Varoufákis va vivre en première ligne d’une bataille où tous les coups sont permis. Le bras de fer se termine mal : après six mois de tensions, et à l’issue d’un référendum par lequel les Grecs l’invitent pourtant à résister aux diktats des créanciers du pays, le Premier ministre Aléxis Tsípras capitule. Il aurait en réalité préféré perdre ce référendum, affirme Varoufákis qui, lui, démissionne dès le lendemain. Deux ans plus tard, ses révélations jettent un regard cruel sur la plupart des protagonistes impliqués. Et l’Europe ne sort guère grandie de ce récit, qui fera bientôt l’objet d’une adaptation au cinéma sous la houlette d’un autre Grec, le cinéaste Costa-Gavras, habitué des films engagés. En attendant, l’outsider qui a osé briser l’omerta continue à distiller ses piques, sans langue de bois.

Dans votre ouvrage, vous dénoncez avec force le «mensonge»du prétendu «sauvetage de la Grèce» mis en place à partir de 2010. Vous n’en avez pas marre d’entendre encore et toujours la même rengaine sur les «Grecs paresseux qui ne payent pas leurs impôts» ?

En réalité, l’opinion évolue, et de plus en plus de gens savent bien que le storytelling qu’on leur a servi sur la crise grecque est un mensonge fabriqué de toutes pièces. Mais ce genre d’arguments reflète avant tout un racisme profond. «Les Grecs», comme «les Allemands», «les Français», ça n’existe pas. Il y a en Grèce des gens qui travaillent plus que les Allemands, qui payent plus d’impôts que les Français et, alors qu’ils luttent pour survivre, qui se voient accusés d’avoir provoqué la crise. Mais il y a aussi, bien sûr, des Grecs qui n’ont pas payé d’impôts et qui, en empruntant pendant des années aux banques allemandes avec la complicité de celles-ci, ont provoqué la crise. Si la faute doit en revenir à un Grec, alors autant accabler le conteur Esope qui, dans l’Antiquité, a été le premier à opposer les cigales et les fourmis. Aujourd’hui, le mythe se perpétue, avec cette idée que les fourmis se trouvent au Nord et les cigales au Sud. En réalité, les unes et les autres se trouvent partout. Et ce sont les cigales du Nord et du Sud, c’est-à-dire les banquiers, qui ont créé la crise et en ont transféré le prix à payer sur les fourmis du Nord et du Sud.

Dès 2008, j’ai dénoncé le mensonge sur la crise grecque. On n’a jamais cherché à sauver la Grèce, mais à sauver les banques françaises et allemandes, soudain trop exposées lorsque le pays a fait faillite en 2009. Et du coup, on a transféré ces dettes à la charge des plus fragiles. Les dirigeants européens ont alors fait semblant de se fâcher contre le symptôme, la fragilité de la Grèce, pour mieux ignorer la cause du problème.

En même temps, aujourd’hui, on entend un autre discours : «La Grèce va mieux, le chômage baisse, elle sortira bientôt des politiques d’austérité…»

Ce n’est pas la première fois que ce mensonge est utilisé. En 2013-2014, les mêmes évoquaient déjà une «sortie de crise». Ils avaient d’ailleurs inventé un néologisme «Greek-covery», pour «Greek recovery» [le rétablissement de la Grèce, ndlr]. Pourtant, ces années-là furent tragiques pour la société grecque. En Lituanie aussi, le chômage a diminué de façon impressionnante. Mais le pays a perdu la moitié de ses habitants. De la même façon, en Grèce, les forces vives, les jeunes, continuent à s’exiler. Ce qui explique en partie la baisse du chômage. Sans compter ceux qui, désespérés, sont totalement sortis du marché de l’emploi ou acceptent du travail à temps partiel après avoir été licenciés. Mais en Europe, après tant d’années d’échec des politiques imposées, les chiffres prospèrent et les gens désespèrent.

Vous êtes le premier à décrire de l’intérieur le fonctionnement des institutions européennes. Et en particulier celui des Eurogroupes qui, sous votre plume, ressemblent parfois à des réunions de gangsters dominées par l’Allemagne…

Evitons précisément de stigmatiser «les Allemands»… Non, ce n’est pas l’Allemagne qui est en cause. Ce sont les élites allemandes qui dictent la marche à suivre, avec l’approbation et la complicité des élites françaises, grecques et autres. Les élites européennes sont toutes solidaires pour imposer les mêmes politiques. Et dans ce contexte, Wolfgang Schäuble [l’intraitable ministre allemand des Finances, ndlr]a raison quand il me lance, en février 2015, que «des élections ne peuvent pas changer une politique économique». C’est la réalité. Regardez ce qui s’était passé en France : François Hollande avait fait campagne pour changer de politique, notamment au sein de l’Union européenne. Et dès qu’il a été élu président, il y a immédiatement renoncé. Qu’on ne s’y trompe pas : les élites européennes soutiennent toutes Wolfgang Schäuble et partagent ce refus de changer de politique économique.

L’arrivée d’Emmanuel Macron au pouvoir, en France, peut-elle changer la donne ? Il s’est rendu spécialement à Athènes pour prononcer son premier discours sur l’Europe…

Et qu’est-ce qu’il a dit ? Que la crise était finie en Grèce, en annonçant même une renaissance ? En Grèce, les gens l’ont écouté avec ahurissement. Vous savez, je considère Emmanuel Macron comme un ami, même si je ne l’ai pas revu depuis son élection. Mais en Grèce, désormais, j’ai un peu de mal à m’en vanter. Macron a perdu toute crédibilité avec ce discours.

Dans votre livre, vous regrettez pourtant de ne pas avoir négocié avec Macron, alors ministre de l’Economie, plutôt qu’avec Michel Sapin, le ministre des Finances…

Hollande et Sapin ont proclamé partout que c’est grâce à eux que la Grèce est finalement restée dans la zone euro. C’est un mensonge éhonté. Ils n’ont jamais contredit Schäuble, n’ont jamais fait la moindre proposition. Ils étaient en permanence à côté de la plaque, de simples spectateurs. C’est Angela Merkel, et elle seule, qui a décidé du maintien de la Grèce dans la zone euro, contre l’avis de son ministre. Je sais, pour en avoir parlé avec lui, que Macron désapprouvait la stratégie de Hollande. Il savait pertinemment qu’un troisième plan de renflouement de la dette grecque était voué à l’échec, comme les précédents. Et pourtant, que fait aujourd’hui Bruno Le Maire, son ministre des Finances ? Exactement la même chose que Sapin à l’époque : il soutient ce troisième mémorandum à Bruxelles.

Et quel regard portez-vous sur la politique de Macron en France ?

J’ai l’impression qu’il essaye d’imposer certaines réformes, comme les lois sur le travail et les réformes budgétaires, avec l’idée de donner le change en «germanisant» la France, et avec l’intention d’aller voir ensuite Merkel pour la convaincre d’accepter le principe d’un budget fédéral. Mais il risque de perdre tout son capital sympathie en France et de se heurter quand même à un refus de Merkel. Après, il ne lui restera plus qu’un choix extrême, comme celui de la politique de la chaise vide à Bruxelles. Car s’il ne résiste pas, Macron n’aura alors été qu’une étoile filante dans un ciel bien sombre.

Mais en même temps, que reste-t-il des forces progressistes en Europe ? Elles semblent avoir renoncé partout…

Il y a indéniablement une fin de cycle pour la social-démocratie, qui s’est sabordée en acceptant sa financiarisation, en composant avec les banques, face auxquelles elle s’est finalement retrouvée pieds et poings liés. C’est ce pacte faustien qui a causé la perte de la social-démocratie. Hollande s’est suicidé en renonçant si vite à ses promesses. Et en Allemagne, de la même façon, les socialistes du SPD se sont sabordés en s’alliant à Merkel dans un gouvernement. Mais les opinions publiques attendent autre chose : une refondation politique. C’est ce que j’essaye de faire avec mon mouvement DiEM25, qui présentera des listes dans tous les pays membres aux prochaines élections européennes.

En ce qui concerne la France, Jean-Luc Mélenchon peut-il être une alternance ?

J’ai beaucoup de sympathie pour l’idée d’insoumission qu’il revendique et pour les gens qui le suivent. Son combat contre les inégalités est justifié. Mais il a tort au sujet de l’Europe. Ce n’est pas parce que la Grèce – tout comme la France d’ailleurs – n’aurait pas dû adopter la monnaie unique qu’il faut pour autant abandonner l’euro ou démolir l’Europe. Aujourd’hui, il faut lutter de l’intérieur pour réformer le système, tout en étant prêts à aller jusqu’au bout du bras de fer si jamais on nous met le pistolet sur la tempe.

C’est ce que vous avez tenté, un temps, au sein du gouvernement d’Aléxis Tsípras. Il est toujours au pouvoir à Athènes. Quels sont vos rapports et comment voyez-vous désormais, de l’extérieur, vos anciens camarades ?

Je n’ai plus aucun contact avec Aléxis Tsípras. Et quand j’observe ce gouvernement, il me fait pitié. Ses représentants semblent apeurés, aliénés. Ils font parfois semblant de protester ou de discuter. Mais en réalité, ils ont capitulé sur tous les sujets.