Business

Mike Scoops Private Eye on McVey’s Departure from Government

Last fortnight’s issue of Private Eye, for the 30th November – 13th December, carried a story suggesting that Esther McVey’s resignation from the cabinet may have been for reasons other than a concern over Brexit. Instead, the satirical magazine suggested, Iain Duncan Smith’s collaborator in the murder and starvation of the old, homeless, unemployed and disabled was due to her wishing to avoid having to answer questions about whether her department has tried to cover up the stats on the deaths on disabled people. The piece, in the ‘HP Sauce’ column on page 10 ran:

<strong>Esther McVey’s sudden cabinet resignation over Brexit does have a silver lining for the former work and pensions secretary. It means she avoids having to answer tricky questions about whether her erstwhile department tried to cover up links between its controversial “fitness for work” tests and the deaths of benefit claimants.

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, and Stephen Lloyd, the Lib Dem’s work and pensions spokesman, wants to establish whether inquest rulings linking the so-called work capability assessment to the deaths of at least two mentally ill claimants were passed to the independent expert tasked with annual reviews of the test. They also want to know whether the results of internal investigations into the deaths of other claimants were passed on.

If they were, they certainly did not feature in Dr Paul Litchfield’s reviews in 2013 and 2014 – and he himself is keeping schtum. A recent Freedom of Information request from Disability News Service also failed to elicit an answer, with the Department for Work and Pensions simply saying it did not hold the information – and it clearly wasn’t prepared to find out.

Let’s see if the two crusading MPs fare any better with McVey’s successor at the DWP, the returning Remainer Amber Rudd, who in her early defence of universal credit looks every bit as evasive as McVey.

This is very much in Mike’s particular sphere of interest over at Vox Political. As a carer, Mike is very concerned about the Tories’ attacks on the disabled and the lethal consequences of their sanctions regime and the Fitness for Work tests. Followers of his blog will recall the struggle Mike had to get the DWP under IDS to release the stats on the number of people, who’d died under their reforms of the benefits system.

On Friday, 23rd November 2018, Mike ran this story speculating that the Minister for the Genocide of the Disabled had resigned because she wanted to avoid being questioned about the number of deaths Tory policies have caused:

Remember when Esther McVey quit the government last week, claiming it was because of Brexit, and I suggested she was running to avoid having to answer the criticisms of the Department for Work and Pensions raised by UN inspector Philip Alston?

It turned out that she had already exchanged words with the special rapporteur on poverty – but now it seems I was not wrong after all, as Ms McVey’s departure allowed her to avoid answering questions on a possible link between the hated Work Capability Assessment carried out by private contractors on behalf of the DWP and the deaths of benefit claimants.

This issue is whether the government showed key documents linking the deaths of claimants with the work capability assessment (WCA) to Dr Paul Litchfield, the independent expert hired to review the test in 2013 and 2014.

Dr Litchfield carried out the fourth and fifth reviews of the WCA but has refused to say if he was shown two letters written by coroners and a number of secret DWP “peer reviews”.

In the light of recent revelations, it seems reasonable to ask whether this is because he was asked to sign a ‘gagging order’ – a non-disclosure agreement requiring him not to say anything embarrassing or critical about the Conservative government or its minister.

Dr Litchfield published his two reviews in December 2013 and November 2014, but neither mentioned the documents, which all link the WCA with the deaths of claimants.

Disability News Service raised the issue in July, prompting Opposition spokespeople to send official letters demanding an explanation. Labour shadow minister for disabled people Marsha de Cordova’s was written on July 25, and Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman Stephen Lloyd’s followed on August 2.

Neither had received a response by the time Ms McVey walked out, as DNS reported.

I think we can safely conclude that the four-month delay – so far – indicates Ms McVey intended never to respond. The disagreement over Brexit provided a handy excuse to do a runner.

Will Amber Rudd be more forthcoming?

The evidence of her time at the Home Office suggests the opposite.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/11/23/did-mcvey-quit-the-government-to-avoid-questions-on-disability-deaths-cover-up/

Mike’s report of the affair covered the same points as that in the Eye, but adds details about Dr Litchfield’s reports and speculates that he may not have given details of the numbers of deaths because he had been forced to sign a gagging order, as very many of the charities and other organisations working with Tweezer’s gang of cutthroats have been forced to do.

One of the problems facing modern print journalism is that by the time they’ve put a story into the paper, everyone’s already read about it on the Net. This is the reason why newspapers have increasingly become similar to magazines with celebrities interviews, media stories and articles on subjects that are of interest, but not necessarily particularly topical.

I went back to reading Private Eye after a hiatus, when I was sick and tired of the magazine’s constant attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. This seems to have calmed down recently, but I’ve no doubt that it’s still bubbling away somewhere underneath. It does carry much excellent information on the shabby deals going on behind the scenes, in politics, local government, business and the press, which isn’t reported in the rest of the media. It’s that which still makes the magazine worth reading.

However, the mainstream media has shown to a rapidly increasing number of people that it is deeply biased and untrustworthy. And it has plenty of competitors from the various left-wing news organisations on the web. Like the Disability News Service, the Canary, the Skwawkbox and very many others. Left-wing bloggers and vloggers are also increasingly turning to them, rather than rely on the viciously biased, mendacious British press. Gordon Dimmack announced on one of his videos a few weeks ago that he wasn’t going to rely on the mainstream media for his stories any longer. This was on a video in which he took apart the lies in a story in the Groaniad about Julian Assange.

The British media, including the Beeb, is feeling threatened. Very threatened. A week or so ago the Radio Times published an article lamenting the polarization in political opinion due to people no longer trusting mainstream news sources, and turning instead to others which conformed to their own views. Thus the political consensus was breaking down. They also ran another article celebrating Question Time and its presenter, Dimbleby. Well, the consensus opinion pushed by the media is largely right-wing, pro-Tory and anti-Corbyn, with the Corporation’s news as massively bias as the Tory papers, from whom some of their journos have come. And Question Time has also angered many people, because of this pro-Tory bias and the way it has packed both panels and audience with Tories and Tory supporters.

It’s entirely right that people are turning away from the lamestream media with its bias and lies to the left-wing blogs, vlogs and other news outlets on the web. They aren’t Tory propaganda outlets, and are increasingly getting the stories before the mainstream papers and broadcasters.

And as this article from Private Eye shows, one of those blogs, which is getting the news to people first, before the mainstream press, is Vox Political.

The Ghosn Shock Should Spur Corporate Governance Reform

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/12/2018 - 7:56pm in

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articles, Business

Published in the Nikkei Asian Review 6/12/2018

The tremors are still being felt from the recent arrest of Carlos Ghosn, chairman of Groupe Renault, Nissan Motor and Mitsubishi Motors, at Japan’s Haneda Airport. Much remains unclear about the legal case against him, but the failures of corporate governance at both Nissan and Renault are glaring. If the right steps are taken to improve governance structures in Japan and elsewhere, there might yet be a positive outcome from this sorry business.

Ghosn is one of the world’s most prominent businessmen and a regular at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering at Davos. He made his name by restructuring Nissan, which had been on the verge of bankruptcy in the late 1990s. At the time the Japanese banking system was lurching from crisis to crisis, so the capital injection by Renault, itself just emerging from full state control, came as manna from heaven for the beleaguered Japanese carmaker.

As chief operating officer, Ghosn took the tough decisions – closing down production lines and reducing the number of suppliers – that Nissan’s consensus-hugging management had jibbed at. He deserved the acclaim he received and as CEO made sensible decisions in tackling the challenges of the Chinese market and EV (Electric Vehicle) development.

As is often the case, governance is rarely an issue when everything is going well and the individual at the top is being lionised by the world’s media. In retrospect, the warning signs were obvious. By 2009, Ghosn had taken over both the chairman and CEO roles for both Nissan and Renault, thereby creating a mass of potential contradictions and conflicts of interest.

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At the press conference given after the Ghosn arrest, current CEO Hiroto Saikawa expressed “resentment and despair” at what he called “the dark side” of the Ghosn era. And since then the Japanese press has been filled with titillating details of Ghosn’s financial excesses, which seemingly dated back many years. If so, why didn’t Saikawa and the other directors rein in their allegedly errant CEO, as is the proper function of a board of directors?

The answer is obvious. CEO Carlos Ghosn was accountable to a board of directors led by Chairman Carlos Ghosn. Furthermore, ultimate control was in the hands of Renault by virtue of its 43.4% stake in Nissan. Despite the fact that Nissan is by far the larger company in terms of production, profits and stock market value, in financial terms it is effectively a subsidiary of Renault. Thus Ghosn of Nissan reported to Ghosn of Renault. At Renault too, CEO Carlos Ghosn was accountable to a board of directors led by Chairman Carlos Ghosn. It is no surprise to learn that there was no remuneration committee at Nissan. Ghosn decided what Ghosn should be paid – and what the other directors were paid too.

Ghosn had become the Emperor of a vast multi-national automobile conglomerate. How could his power be checked? Not by any normal processes of corporate governance. The only hope was the new protection given to whistle blowers by reforms introduced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Particularly useful to the Nissan dissidents was the legal immunity available to providers of incriminating testimony.

A few simple governance reforms could ensure that a similar debacle does not recur. First, splitting the role of CEO and chairman should be compulsory, rather than merely expected as at present. Even Elon Musk seems to have accepted that he cannot take the lead in supervising himself.

muskdope

In Japan’s case, at least half the directors should be independent non-executives too, as corporate insiders are likely to be too beholden to factions and leader-figures

Secondly, there should be restrictions on listed companies having large stakes in separately listed affiliates and subsidiaries which they effectively control. In Japan, these are known as “parent and child listings.” In recent years the practice has been frowned on by the Tokyo Stock Exchange and several conglomerates have either reduced stakes in or completely absorbed their “child” companies.

However, the practice has not been forbidden and investors are about to be confronted by a huge and egregious new example –  the imminent stock market debut of SoftBank Corp, the mobile communications unit of SoftBank Group, which will retain 66.4% of the equity after listing. In such circumstances, independence can only be a mirage and the potential for conflicts of interest is huge.

Thirdly, there is the question of inequality of shareholder rights, as enshrined in France’s “Florange law,” which gives double the voting power to long-term investors. The intention may be good – in reality, tax breaks could incentivize long-term investment just as well  – but the result is to marginalize ordinary investors and embed the dominance of founding families, big institutions and the French State, whose 15% stake in Renault gives it 30% of the votes. Worse still are the privileged positions of tech magnates like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, one of whose shares are worth ten of anybody else’s.

As the Ghosn scandal shows, the perils of lousy corporate governance are a global ill. So far nobody is emerging from it with any credit. Prime Minister Abe could do so if he were to clamp down on these abuses and set a shareholder democracy template that the rest of the world could follow.

Going, Going, Ghosn: Japan Takes Down Mr. Davos

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/12/2018 - 7:50pm in

Published in Japan Forward  8/12/2018

The coup d’etat was executed with a stealth and ruthlessness that would have had a CIA operative in 1970s Latin America purring with admiration.

Carlos Ghosn, the globally renowned boss of Nissan Motor and Groupe Renault, was arrested as soon as the Gulfstream private jet that whisked him around the world taxied to a halt at Haneda Airport. He then disappeared into the recesses of the Japanese justice system and little has been heard from him since.

ghosn

The global shockwaves were palpable. Not because a celebrated businessman has been accused of financial improprieties – sadly, that is far from unusual these days – but because his wealth and status failed to insulate him.

In most Western countries the rich have instant access to top level legal talent, image polishers, doctors willing to diagnose mental health issues, the best protection that money can buy. If the worst happens and you are found guilty of an offence, there are “country club” jails for white collar criminals.

Japan is more egalitarian than that. When the powerful fall, they can fall very hard indeed.

In 1989 Hiromasa Ezoe, the founder and boss then of the Recruit group, was arrested for violation of the Securities and Exchange Law. In his book “Where is the Justice”, he described the treatment he received in the weeks before being charged, which included being made to kneel and bow, a cavity search with a glass rod and having questions bellowed into his ears at point blank range.

Such things happen in the West too of course, but never to members of the elite. Political insiders are hardly immune either.  In 2002, Dietman Muneo Suzuki of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was held in pre-trial detention for 437 days before being granted bail and eventually found guilty of corruption.

Muneo Suzuki under pressure Muneo Suzuki under pressure

Ghosn’s fall from grace is all the more shocking because his reputation was built on real achievements. When Renault came to the rescue in 1998, Nissan was a dead man walking and the Japanese banking system much too fragile to offer any support.

The company would not be here today without Ghosn – or, to be more precise, without the restructuring plan that he implemented, which was devised by Louis Schweitzer, Renault boss at the time and grandnephew of the great doctor, Albert Schweitzer.

Nissan has always lacked the brand value and reputation for innovative engineering of rivals Toyota, Honda and Mazda, but subsequently Ghosn played a weak hand well, building a significant presence in the Chinese market and devising an EV strategy, centred on the Nissan Leaf, that is cheap and effective for both producer and consumer.

Co-operative planning with Renault is now delivering results. The two companies produce 3 million vehicles with over 70% of components shared. Indeed, such is the degree of integration that unwinding the relationship might be like a mini-Brexit in terms of cost and complexity.

Ghosn3

Japan has a history of corporate scandals. Just in recent years, companies such as Toshiba, Olympus and airbag manufacturer Takata have suffered significant fall-out after the uncovering of acts of negligence or accounting fraud. Several other companies, Nissan included, have been found to have skimped product testing. Tearful executives apologizing at press conferences, police investigators raiding corporate headquarters and carting away boxes of documents – these have become familiar images.

The trap sprung on Carlos Ghosn was qualitatively different. Not because he was a foreigner but because the allegations against him are qualitatively different too.

The golden rule of the traditional Japanese scandal is that nobody must benefit personally. Cover-ups of financial losses or regulation-bending on the factory floor are done in order to protect the corporate entity as a whole, not for individual gain. The accusation being levelled against Ghosn is that he extracted significantly more than his officially disclosed remuneration, which was already sky-high by Japanese standards, though merely middle-of-the-pack for American and European auto company bosses.

Is this evidence of a peculiarly Japanese tribal ethic? Perhaps not. In the wake of the global financial crisis, the issue of inequality in general and CEO pay in particular have become hot topics in many Western countries. Improper though legal behavior is increasingly unacceptable.

Who Has Skin in the Game?

In the UK, the CEO of builder Persimmon – who won a jackpot of £110 million, thanks to a poorly designed incentive scheme – was accused of “corporate looting” and forced to resign. Meanwhile, billionaire retailer Sir Philip Green, known for his sharp financial manoeuvring , has become a hate figure for the press and politicians. The world may be turning Japanese in more ways than one.

Ghosn5

Even in the U.S., which is traditionally relaxed about huge wealth differentials, there is concern about enormous pay-outs. It is hard to believe that today GE’s Jack Welch could score a retirement package worth over $400 million, including lifetime provision of a Manhattan apartment, tickets to Wimbledon etc., especially since GE’s share price has tanked to a twenty five year low.

Entrepreneurs and innovators, on the other hand, still command widespread respect. Few begrudge Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos their enormous wealth and Elon Musk can get away with smoking marijuana during a TV interview and making unfounded claims about taking his company private.

The difference is that many corporate leaders, even a “rock-star CEO” like Jack Welch, take the helm for a relatively short time, making it hard to judge the long-term effect of decisions taken.

Crucially, they lack what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls “skin in the game.” Generous grants of share options give them the chance to reap huge gains, but, unlike entrepreneur-owners, they do not bear the corresponding losses if things go wrong. This “heads I win, tails you lose” formula is bound to breed resentment and belief that at the highest levels the game is fixed.

Much remains mysterious about the lead-up to Ghosn’s crime-lord style arrest at Haneda Airport, but it is clear that he made many enemies. His underlings at Nissan felt little loyalty to their iconic boss, while his bitter feud with French President Emmanuel Macron dates back to Macron’s stint as Minister of Economic Affairs in the Hollande administration.

For different reasons, both sides would have disliked Ghosn’s plan for a full merger of Renault and Nissan. Macron because he does not want any dilution of the French government’s shareholding. Nissan managers because they dream of  “re-Japanizing” the company as an independent entity.

Carlos Antoinette?

It is revealing that so far there has been little effort to defend Ghosn by the French government, while the Renault unions have denounced his “indecency.” If you are nicknamed “Le Cost Killer,” it is not wise to comport yourself like Marie Antoinette, as Ghosn did quite literally at his 2016 wedding party at the Palace of Versailles.

ghosn4

“If Davos Were a Person, It Would Be Carlos Ghosn” that was how Bloomberg Businessweek headed a sympathetic profile last year. Ghosn was indeed a regular at the annual conference of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Born in Brazil to Lebanese parents, educated in Paris, with three different passports and multiple residences in the world’s major cities, he is an apt symbol of globalization.

In many parts of the world today the political and social side-effects of globalization are being critically re-examined. Unfortunately for Carlos Ghosn, he could become a symbol of that process too.

Ian Blackford Shreds May’s ‘Strong and Stable’ Slogan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/12/2018 - 6:34am in

Remember when the Tories were trying to fool the public into thinking that May was ‘strong and stable’ repeating this at every opportunity? This was supposed to be in contrast to Jeremy Corbyn. It was a slogan that was particularly applied to the relationship with Europe. Europe, we were told, would prefer to deal with a ‘strong and stable’ Europe under May.

Mike sent up that slogan after it became abundantly clear that May is anything but. He called her ‘weak and wobbly’. Which is what she is. Instead of being a ‘bloody awkward woman’ who would get the best deal she could from the EU, she was reduced to following the EU president around pleading with him to give her something. She could not be told that the EU was under absolutely no obligation to give her any kind of deal or offer of one.

This video from RT, again of just under a minute long, show Ian Blackford standing up in parliament today to shred May’s precious slogan. He says

Mr Speaker, we were promised strong and stable, what we have is a government in crisis. A government that has lost two Brexit Secretaries, a Home Secretary, a Foreign Secretary, a Work and Pensions Secretary. A government that has suffered from three consecutive defeats in just two hours. The first government to do so, Mr Speaker, in 40 years. And now a government found in contempt of Parliament. Is it time that the Prime Minister took responsibility for concealing the facts on her Brexit deal from members of this House and the public. Will she take responsibility?

As you can see, it’s quite a funny video. When Blackford itemizes the various cabinet ministers she’s lost, their faces pop up below him while a tinkling piano plays sad music, like the theme from Love Story. Then the shots of May’s Tories are shown in black and white, as if it’s all in mourning.

But there’s a very serious side to this. The Tories have created a situation that has split England dangerously from the rest of the UK, as well as Gibraltar, never mind about the rest of the EU. Cameron did so solely for his own advantage as leader of the Tory party. It allowed just over half of the British public to be seriously misled by a ‘Leave’ campaign that lied about the scale of migration from the EU and fraudulently claimed that once we left, 350 million pounds a year would be saved and put back into the Health Service. This was plastered all over the sides of buses by Boris Johnson and his crew, who then denied that they had made any such promise at all. And then after issuing the denial, Boris Johnson, the man who would be the next Prime Minister then went back and repeated the original lie.

And with Brexit and the farcical deal May has negotiated, people have been advised to stock up on food and medicines, as these may be in short supply after Brexit. The curbs on migration from the EU will prevent badly needed workers coming to Britain to supply staff for the NHS. Not that the Tories are going to be too worried about that. They are actively running it down ready for privatization.

People are worried about prices going up, which will once again hit those on low wages, which the Tories have insisted on throughout the last eight years in order to keep labour cheap and disposable, and profits high for employers. Businesses worry about finding staff, and being able to export their goods to the continent. Or import from there the raw materials they need.

It’s a mess. And it is solely due to the Tories.

May was never ‘strong and stable’. It wasn’t even an original slogan, as the Australian spin doctor who came up with it had previously used it to garner support for the Country Party – Australia’s Tories – Down Under. And it didn’t work down there either.

May and the Tories have lied, and deceived not only the general public but also parliament. Meanwhile, half her cabinet appear to have jumped ship like rats before May finally goes down.

And that can’t come too soon. May should go down, and the rest of her wretched, deceitful, mendacious, vicious and incompetent party with her.

Fascism Based on the Values of Business and the Military

On Saturday I put up a number of extracts from Robert A. Brady’s The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937) to show that, contrary to what the Republicans in America and the Tories in this country would have us believe Nazism was firmly capitalist, not socialist. Brady argued that Nazism was, economically, monopoly capitalism with businessmen put in charge of the economy, very much like the corporatist capitalism introduced by the Tories, the Republicans and Blair’s New Labour.

Brady also argued that the autocratic social structure of Fascism was based very much on the hierarchical structure of business and the armed forces, including the businessmen’s contempt for the low paid. He wrote

With respect first to the condition, it has been pointed out in the first chapter of this study, and illustrated in subsequent chapters, that the German business community did not depart one iota from tried and true “business principles” when they underwrote the Nazi programme. Every business practices towards its own staff the “leader” and the “authority” principles, and it undeviatingly aspires towards the “total” principle. That is to say, all officers and staff members are appointed and removed from on top entirely at the discretion of management (leader principle), and authority is from the top down, responsibility from the bottom up (authority principle). And every employer attempts to control so far as humanly possible the attitudes, beliefs, and points of view (weltanschauung) of his employees and every section of the public with which he comes in contact (total principle).

Every business establishment is, in other words, completely autocratic and completely undemocratic in structure, ideology, and procedure. It is, by the same token, completely intolerant of all opposition within or without, or of any criticism which does not redound to the advantage of the profit-making possibilities of the enterprise. The enterprise may be compelled, it is true, to make important concessions on all points, but it should not be forgotten that these are concessions, not departures from principle.

Furthermore, every employer regards the gradation of pay and authority amongst the staff over which he presides as being essentially just and sound, because each indicates the relative ability he or she possesses by the position occupied. The criteria are not productive, but acquisitive. Each is paid according to his ability to acquire or “get ahead”, not according to his contribution to output. If the two – contribution to output and contribution to acquisition – happen to go together, well and good. If they do not, it matters little, since their juxtaposition is a matter of accident, not of interdependence.

The condition of society in which the business men would rule would be that one which is natural to them. It would, as a matter of course, be centralized, autocratic, and intolerant, and it would be so constructed that each would get exactly what he deserves for the simple reason that according to the rules he deserves whatever he can get. It is the well accepted business view that most, if not all of the unemployed are shiftless, worthless, irresponsible, and undisciplined. it is taken as axiomatic that the lowest wage-earner receives all that “is coming to him,” since if he could get more by any means which does not disturb business routine it is obvious that he would. His failure is the measure of his incompetence, and with that all has been said about it that may be mentioned by gentlemen of good breeding and respectable station!

This condition is one that would normally appeal to the conventional army officer. The military is the only other completely undemocratic, completely autocratic, and completely intolerant – completely “leader”, “authoritarian”, and “totalitarian” – organization in modern society. Provided due allowance is made for recognition of the military hierarchies of “authority” and “duty” in the fascist state, it can be fitted into the pattern of the businessman’s ultima thule without a single tonal jar. The moods, attitudes, points of view, values, and appraisals of human worth are fundamentally the same.

It is for this reason that it seems so easy for the military and business hierarchies to get together as they have in Italy, Germany, Portugal, Hungary, and many other places. But the significance of this natural alliance is that the military holds the key to political power. Once the alliance takes place, fascism is here unless the elements arrayed against it-as in Spain-possess superior force. It does not follow that the army rank and file will follow their officers any more than it does that labourers will follow their employers. But, if they do, fascism is practically certain to gain the ascendancy. (pp. 335-7).

The shared values of business, the military and Fascism helps explain why the British stock exchange applauded at the news of the Fascist revolt in Spain, at least according to Orwell, and why sections of Conservative party have always overlapped with the Fascist fringe, such as the National Front and the BNP. And why the Libertarians, like the Freedom Association, formerly the National Association for Freedom, or NAAF – make your own jokes up – backed murderous Fascist regimes in South and Central America. Of course, Milton Friedman, the founder of Monetarism, Thatcher’s favourite economic theory, and the Chicago School supported right-wing dictators like General Pinochet because they reasoned that it would only be through a Fascist coup that their programme of completely destroying the welfare state and state economic interference could be implemented.

And it exactly explains the Conservative and New Labour hatred of low wage workers and the unemployed, and why Thatcher was so keen on supporting the police and military against strikers. And it’s also a very strong argument for introducing some measure of industrial democracy – workers’ control – in order to make this country truly democratic.

And this is quite apart from the imperialism that is at the heart of Fascism – the wars fought for the benefit of American and western multinationals, from the coups in Latin America to the latest, so-called humanitarian interventions in the Middle East.

We desperately need a programme like Corbyn’s, which offers both industrial democracy, and a better deal for the unemployed and those in work in Britain and an end to wars abroad. Because without it, as we’ve seen, is the road to real Fascism, as shown in the militantly racist and anti-Semitic parties gaining strength in Europe.

‘Onion Too Dangerous’ Says Shop That Has Dedicated Chainsaw Section

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 18/11/2018 - 4:16pm in

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Business, Featured

A warehouse chain that has an entire section devoted to chainsaws, compound mitre saws and jackhammers, has warned its customers about the potential dangers of cooked slices of onion.

“We wouldn’t want people to slip and roll their ankle,” said a spokesperson from the store that stocks machinery designed to dismantle brick walls.

Walking through the jigsaw, power drill and nail gun section, the spokesperson said onion became slippery when it fell on a concrete floor. He then recommended a product that could remove the onion grease, as well as one that could remove the concrete floor.

Onions can now be found underneath sausages. Industrial leaf blowers can be found under angle grinders, next to hedge trimmers.

_________________________

GET YOUR COPY OF THE 2018 SHOVEL ANNUAL 

The Nazis’ Promotion of Private Business and Businessmen as the Elite

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 18/11/2018 - 8:01am in

Robert A. Brady provides further evidence of the capitalist nature of Nazism in his book, The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937) by pointing out how the Nazis promoted private industry and businessmen as part of the biological elite, who were entitled to positions of leadership. They also embarked on a campaign of privatization of state enterprises, and promoted to positions of leadership in the economic direction of the state private businessmen, even when the majority of enterprises in that particular sector of the economy were state owned. And finally, the German law the Nazis used to promote their management of industry was that which recognized the management of private property for public use, as against proper socialized or nationalized industry.

Brady points out that the businessmen and functionaries who joined the Advisory Council of the National Economic Chamber had to take an oath to serve the Fuhrer and National Chancellor, which meant Hitler in the two offices he occupied, the goals of the National Socialist party, the Third Reich and the construction of the people’s community. (p. 265). But he also quotes Hitler’s economics minister, Hjalmar Schacht, who declared that businessmen were indispensable to the Nazi system, as was free competition.

“We cannot dispense with the economic willing of individual business leaders and workers,” Schacht said. To do so, he held, would be to destroy “the creative power” of the people. The function of business enterprise is to release this creative power on behalf of the nation. “Under no circumstances,” he continued, “shall we destroy the multifarious individual character of our economic system. For all time to come we shall need the independent employer who, for better or worse,, is connected with his enterprise.” In other words, businessmen in the new Germany are to be given free rein to function as before, except now they must be “honest” in the sense that they must not resort to “unfair” tactics to achieve corporate ends. (pp. 265-6).

He further quotes Schacht as saying, “We cannot get along without an honest struggle of competition”. (p. 266).

He makes it also clear that the German business community were also able to name the Nazi functionaries appointed to lead the various state planning organisations controlling private industry. He writes

Since the whole Nazi philosophy necessarily calls for this apotheosis of bourgeois and capitalistic virtues, it is only natural that when they were presented with an opportunity to shape organization more nearly after the pattern of their hearts’ desire the business men should also be able to name their controlling staff of “Leaders.” And such has been the case. In all the literature published by business organisations, and of all the dozens of businessmen personally interviewed in Germany, regardless of their industrial, trade, or financial origin, not a single criticism has been found of the type of “Leaders” placed in command. There is a great deal of complaint about individuals and policies, but there are uniformly the pleadings of minority groups who are being discriminated against, or else against the specific incidence of policies which economic facts compel them to endorse.

Further, the leadership has been entirely that of men enjoying the confidence of the business community. This holds for the Chambers of Industry and Commerce, the Provincial Economic Chambers, the various National, Economic, and Functional (or Trade) Groups, and the National Economic Chamber and its various subdivisions. The first Leader, Schmitt, was a well-known German business man, and thoroughly acceptable to the business community at large. The second Leader, Dr. Schacht, has been so completely acceptable, and his dicta so readily enforced throughout the country, that he is commonly known as the “economic dictator of Germany.” Under the leadership of these men, the appointment and removal of inferior “leaders” through the system has been, with minor exceptions, entirely to the satisfaction of the business communities affected. (p. 290).

He also describes how private industry, and privatization, were promoted against state industries.

The same picture holds for the relations between the National Economic Chamber and the organs of local government. As Frielinghaus has put it, “The new structure of economics recognizes no differences between public and private economic activity…” Not only are representatives of the various local governments to be found on both the national and regional organs of the National Economic Chamber, but it is even true that local government is co-ordinated to the end that economic activities pursued by them shall enjoy no non-economic advantages over private enterprise.

The literature on this point is perfectly explicit, being of a nature with which the general American public is familiar through numerous utterance of business leaders on the “dangers of government competition with private enterprise.” Under pressure of this sort the Reich government and many of its subsidiary bodies have begun to dispose of their properties to private enterprise, or to cease “competition” with private enterprise where no properties are at stake. Thus the Reich, the states, and the communes have already disposed of much of their holdings in the iron and steel industry notably the United Steel Works), coal, and electric power. Similarly, support is being withdrawn for loans to individuals wishing to construct private dwellings wherever private enterprise can possibly make any money out of the transactions. True, the government has been expanding its activities in some directions, but mainly where there is no talk of “competition with private enterprise,” and with an eye to providing business men with effective guarantees against losses. (pp. 191-2).

A little while ago I posted up a piece from Maoist Rebel News on YouTube, which also cited articles from economic history journals to show that both the Nazi and Italian Fascist regimes engaged in massive privatization programmes beyond those of other industrialised western nations at the time.

Brady also points that, while three quarters of the German electrical industry was state-owned, it was private businessmen who were placed in charge of it.

Nothing could show more clearly the intent of Nazi control in economic affairs than the make-up of the active management of this organization. Despite the fact that better than three-fourths of all German electric power is owned or controlled by public bodies, the directing heads of the National Electric Power Supply Federation are drawn almost exclusively from the ranks of private enterprise. Its first Board of Directors was presided over by two chairmen, both representative of private power companies: Hellmuth Otte, General Director of the Hamburg Electric Works, Inc. (controlled by the Siemens-Schuckjert combine, largest manufacturers of electric equipment and supplies in Germany), and Dr. Wilhelm Luhr, member of the Board of Directors of the Gesellschaft fur Elektrische Unternehmungen-Ludwig Lowe & Co. A.G. (the largest holding company in the private German electric-power industry, the company likewise controls several electrical supply manufacturing concerns).

This is very similar to the corporatist system in Britain and America, in which businesspeople have been appointed to government posts overseeing the economy. This has been done both by the Republicans and Democrats in America, and by the Tories and Blair’s New Labour over here. George Monbiot described the situation in Britain very thoroughly in his book, Captive State.

He also makes it very clear that Nazi economic planning is based very much on private enterprise, going back to a distinction made between private property for public use and socialized property in German law.

From what has been said above it is perfectly clear that “planned organization” should be understood not as social-economic planning in the socialist sense of the term, but as “business co-ordination” with a view to exercise of monopoly powers. There is nothing in the literature which permits a discerning reader any other interpretation. By the same token, the expression – interlarded through the endless stream of propaganda and explanatory newspapers, brochures, books, and reports-Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz, requires transliteration into English patois in order to be understood properly. Gemein means “common,” or “public”, or “general”; nutz means “fruits,” or emoluments.” or “returns.” The expression Gemeinnutz as used by the Nazis, means “return to the community,” or, more precisely, “service to the community.’ Eigen on the other hand, means “individual” or “own.” Eignenutz thus means “returns to the individual,” or “profits”. The exact meaning of the whole expression is “services to the community before profits to the individual”; the American wording is “profits through service.”

This interpretation is in line with an old distinction, running back through several generations of German economic and business literature, between privatwirtschaft and Gemeinwirtschaft, on the one hand, and Gemeinwirtschaft and Sozialwirtschaft on the other. Privatwirtschaft has always been taken to mean an economy of private enterprise in the English, liberal, laissez-faire sense. Gemeinwirtschaft was used to mean a profits economy from the public point of view, or, in other words, a profit economy supplying a service tot he community. Sozialwirtschaft, on the contrary, has long meant socialization. All the Nazi literature emphasizes the present economic system as a Gemeinwirtschaft. (pp. 319-20).

It is thus very clear that the Nazi economy was very definitely capitalist. It celebrated the private businessman as a member of the economic and social elite, and promoted private enterprise and its leaders against state-owned industry, which it also privatized as far as possible. And it made very clear in law that the economy was a private enterprise supplying a public service and not a socialized economy.

Those who claim that Nazism was a form of socialism are wrong, and arguing so in order to try to discredit socialism and the Left through guilt by association. But the Nazis promotion of private enterprise, business interests and management also make it extremely similar to contemporary corporate capitalism, as advocated by the Republicans, Corporate Democrats, Tories and Blairite New Labour.

The Capitalist Nature of Nazism

Every now and then a Conservative defender of capitalism tries to argue that Nazism and Fascism were forms of Socialism. Jonah Goldberg tried it a few years ago in his book, Liberal Fascism, a Tory MP stood up in the European parliament a couple of weeks ago and made the same accusation, though he had to take it back and apologise. And Private Eye in recent weeks have also published a couple of letters from readers making the same claims.

Fascism did have Socialistic elements. Mussolini was originally a radical Socialist, who broke with the rest of the Italian Socialist movement in supporting Italy joining the First World War. The Fascist party was originally extremely left-wing in its programme of 1919. Its corporativism was not only based on the ideas of the right-wing Italian Nationalists, but also from part of the syndicalist movement, which moved away from demanding absolute workers’ control to advocating an industrial structure which included both capitalists and workers in a series of corporations set up to govern each industry, or sector of the economy. The Nazis also included socialist elements in their 1922 programme, such as the nationalization of firms and profit-sharing in industry, as well as the break-up of the department stores.

However, the Fascists and Nazis came to power through their alliance with business and the aristocracy. Both the Italian Fascists and Nazis in Germany were hostile to socialism, communism and workers’ trade unions. In Italy, they also allied with the Vatican to destroy the Populists, a party set up to represent Italian Roman Catholics against persecution by the Liberal state, which was distrusted by the Papacy because they considered it too radical. Once in power, the socialist elements of these parties’ programmes was soon jettisoned. Hitler declared that he had no intention of nationalizing businesses, unless they were badly run. He had the SA massacred in the Night of the Long Knives because this part of the Nazi party did take the socialist elements of party programme seriously. The word ‘socialist’ had only been included in the name of the Nazi party – the National Socialist German Workers’ Party – against bitter opposition by some of its founders. Hitler stated that he did so in order to steal potential recruits from the real left-wing parties. Furthermore, the Nationalist intellectuals who first advocated a right-wing ‘socialist’ order in the 1920s stated that they did not refer to the nationalization of industry, but to the socialization of people to serve the state. And just before the Nazi seizure of power, Hitler made a speech to German industry stating that Nazism would protect private industry.

Robert A. Brady, an associate professor of economics at the University of California, made the capitalist nature of the Nazi regime very clear in his The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937). The book is a thorough description of German society under the Nazis – its ideology, social structure, the coordination of science, industry and agriculture, the instruments of power and the various party organisations used to recruit and control the masses. Brady states

The regime which the Nazis proceeded to establish is fairly described, by the very nature of the major interest which sponsored it, as a dictatorship of monopoly capitalism. Its “fascism” is that of business enterprise organized on a monopoly basis, and in full command of all the military, police, legal and propaganda power of the state. (p. 33, emphasis in the original). He lays out the essential capitalist nature of the Nazi state as follows on pages 41-2.

1. Productive Property and natural resources are to be privately owned; freedom of contract is guaranteed (excepting to “aliens” and the peasants under the Inheritance laws).
2. Individual initiative, the business entrepreneur, conduct of business for profit (“reward for services performed”), and ownership (individual or stockholder) control are basic.
3. Business men are to be free, if “responsible” (“self-government in business”), to fix by agreement prices, production totals and quotas, marketing areas, and the conditions and terms of purchase and sale.
4. Stock and commodity exchanges, commission houses, brokers, and speculative transactions are inevitable and necessary for the conduct of “organic business.” (Business as usual.)
5. Heavy industries, particularly those catering to the military and foreign trade, are encouraged; large-scale units, unless “uneconomical” are to be kept intact; co-operatives are to be broken up.
6. The social class structure of society is sanctified, strengthened, made semi-hereditary, and hardened into caste lines
(Standestaat, class state); the “Middle Class” are the Myrmidons of the Elite (Fuhrerstaat, leader state) and, as such, the backbone of the state.
7. Employers have practically complete control over workmen in regard to wages, hours, and working conditions. They must “take care” of their workmen-i.e. see that they are fed and do not grumble.
8. Collective bargaining is completely abolished; strikes are illegal; trade unions are forbidden; requests for wage increases are
lese majeste.
9. Control is completely from on top; there is and can be no such thing as control or discussion of policies from below; the “leaders” decide all things as they see fit; each holds appointed office for indefinite periods at the will of his superior.
10. The National Socialist Party and the German State are one and inseparable, as spirit and body. Legislative, executive, and judicial authorities are fused together. The central government controls all local government and all activities in all their details.
11. Civil and military are fused together; as in the military there can be no freedom of speech, of assembly, of writing, of acting, of “thoughts.” “Anyone may grumble or criticize the government who is not afraid to go to a concentration camp.” (Goebbels).
12. Germany must be made self-sufficient at all costs.
(Autarkie).
13. Non-Germans cannot be citizens; as a corollary, all Germans residing outside Germany either belong or owe allegiance to the Third Reich.
14 Communism (Bolshevism, Marxism) is the major enemy. There can be no such thing as equality of rights, opportunities, or income for classes, races, or sexes. The “broad masses” are fools and must be duped and led to meet the purposes of the elite
(Herrenstaat). Class war is the major crime; material rewards for the rank and file sheer folly.
15. All sciences and “culture” must be co-ordinated and made to serve the purposes of the “leader,” “total,” “corporate” “master”
(Herren)state. propaganda is the method. Propaganda knows neither right nor wrong, neither truth nor falsehood, but only what it wants.

In fact, business autonomy was severely limited by the imposition of the apparatus of state planning as Nazi Germany became a centrally planned economy similar to the Soviet Union, though in the case of Germany and Fascist Italy the economy was still very definitely capitalist private industry. Brady also goes on to discuss in his book how the Nazis celebrated and lauded the businessman as biologically superior through their social Darwinist ideology, and made sure that the leaders of industry, whether state-owned or private, were all drawn from the private sector.

Nazi rhetoric was anti-capitalist, but by this they meant free trade, which they identified with the Jews, just as they claimed the Jews were behind Socialism, Communism, the trade unions and other left-wing movements. They also borrowed some elements from Communism. Fellow Germans were ‘national comrades’, rather like the Marxist use of the term ‘comrade’ to describe a fellow Communist.

However, it is clear from this that Nazism was deeply Conservative and capitalist in its economic and social policies, and bitterly anti-socialist. It had socialist elements, but they were not taken seriously and only ever used as propaganda against the genuinely socialist parties and organisations. Any description of the Nazis as really socialist is utterly false and a lie, a rhetorical attempt to discredit contemporary socialism through guilt by association, and must be seen as such.

Spice Girls Call on People to Support May in Brexit Negotiations

Here’s another story from the I, simply reporting a piece that was in another newspaper. Yesterday, the I was repeating a piece from the Sunday Times that David Miliband might come back to England to lead the new ‘centrist’ Blairite party that’s been debated for months now. Today, 13th November 2018, the I ran a piece about an article in the Scum, in which the Spice Girls called upon the people of Britain to support Tweezer in her Brexit negotiations with Brussels.

The article on page 7 of newspaper ran

The Spice Girls have called on Britons to back up Theresa May in her Brexit negotiations.

The band were known for their girl power message during the 1990s, but Emma Bunton, aka Baby Spice, told The Sun of a change in message more than 20 years on. She said, “It’s people power. We’re about equality and bringing everyone together.”

Bandmate Geri Horner also backed Mrs May, saying the Prime Minister did not have an “easy position”.

She said: “We don’t have to agree on politics, it’s bigger than that. You can just support a woman doing the best she can and that’s it.”

Er, no, you don’t have to support May. She might be doing the best she can, but she’s the head of a party that has single-handedly done its absolute and level best to reduce ordinary working people, the sick, the disabled and the unemployed to grinding poverty. While at the same time depriving them of employment rights, privatizing the health service and stripping back the welfare state to make benefits as difficult and as humiliating to obtain as possible. As a result, something like 14 million are in poverty, a quarter of a million at least are using food banks, and homelessness has shot up. And there is an ongoing genocide of the disabled which is largely ignored by the mass media. Her predecessor, David Cameron, by calling the referendum did more to split the UK than Sinn Fein and the Scots Nats, because everyone in Northern Ireland and Scotland wishes to remain in Europe. It’s only we English, who swallowed the xenophobic rubbish and outright lies of the Leave campaign.

And whatever Tweezer says, any deal she makes will not benefit the vast majority of this country’s people. Despite her party’s rhetoric, there have no interest in doing anything to improve conditions for the rest of us. Quite the opposite. The Tory party is the party of the rich and affluent, the aristocracy and the business classes. Thanks to austerity, their wealth has massively increased while Britain’s working people have become much poorer. Any deal May will want to make with Brussels will be intended to benefit them, not us.

The best thing in the circumstances will be for Tweezer’s negotiations to fail, an election called and the Tories kicked out and replaced with a proper, Labour government that can actually do the job of rebuilding our economy, welfare state, NHS and relationship with Europe.

As for the Spice Girls themselves, I don’t hate them, but I was never a fan. They always struck me as Conservatives, and a number of my friends didn’t think much of them, regarding them as a manufactured band. As for their slogan ‘Girl Power’, the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror film website, Moria, in its review of their film, Spice World, said it was meaningless. It was a kind of ‘post-feminist feminism’, and so was essentially as meaningless and empty as their music. The video for ‘Spice Up Your Life’, in which the girls fly through a dark, twilight city of towering skyscrapers, drenched in rain and given occasional illumination by a distant searchlight on high-tech surf boards seems so much based on Los Angeles of the SF film Blade Runner that I’m surprised Ridley Scott didn’t sue them for copyright. Blade Runner is one of the great classics of SF cinema, not least for its striking cityscape and Vangelis’ synthesizer score. It’s a downbeat, depressing movie, in sharp contrast to ‘Spice Up Your Life’, which is just a piece of inconsequential fun. But the movie had something deep to say about humanity and our assumptions of moral superiority over the biological machines we may create to serve us. Plus the fact that it had that awesome speech by Rutger Hauer as the Replicant leader, Roy Batty, to Harrison Ford’s Rik Deckard at the end: ‘Now you know what it’s like to be a slave. To live in fear. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe, seen ships on fire off the shores of Orion…’ etc. Seeing the Spice Girls’ video of ‘Spice Up Your Life’ the other day on YouTube reminded of just how great a piece of cinematic art Blade Runner was.

As for ‘people power’ and the rhetoric about equality and bringing everyone together, that’s very rich coming from the Scum. The Scum’s the mouthpiece of the Tory party, which has done everything it can since it was founded by Murdoch to divide Britain, not least through its strident, persistent racism. It’s thanks to the Tory party and their imitators, New Labour, that there is now a yawning chasm between rich and poor, while the Tories have exacerbated and created further racial divisions by whipping up hatred and fear against immigrants and asylum seekers. Quite apart from the general hatred and fear the Tory press incites against the unemployed and disabled, whom they despise and denigrate as ‘scroungers’.

The Spice Girls are planning a comeback, and if people like their music, that’s fine. They gave people a lot of pleasure back in the 1990s. But this time, their message in the Scum is definitely best ignored.

An Argument for Industrial Democracy from the Mars of SF

I’m currently reading Blue Mars, the last of a trilogy of books about the future colonization of the Red Planet by Kim Stanley Robinson. Written in the 1990s, this book and the other two in the series, Red Mars and Green Mars, chronicle the history of humans on Mars from the landing of the First 100 c. 2020, through full-scale colonization and the development of Martian society to the new Martians’ struggle for independence from Earth. In this future, Earth is run by the metanats, a contraction of ‘metanational’. These are the ultimate development of multinational corporations, firms so powerful that they dominate and control whole nations, and are the real power behind the United Nations, which in theory rules Mars.

As the Martians fight off Terran rule, they also fight among themselves. The two main factions are the Reds and the Greens. The Reds are those, who wish to preserve Mars in as close to its pristine, un-terraformed condition as possible. The Greens are those on the other side, who wish to terraform and bring life to the planet. The Martians are also faced with the question about what type of society and economy they wish to create themselves. This question is a part of the other books in the series. One of the characters, Arkady Bogdanov, a Russian radical, is named after a real Russian revolutionary. As it develops, the economy of the free Martians is partly based on gift exchange, rather like the economies of some indigenous societies on Earth. And at a meeting held in the underground chamber of one of the Martian societies – there are a variety of different cultures and societies, reflecting the culture of various ethnic immigrant to Mars and the political orientation of different factions – the free Martians in the second book draw up their tentative plans for the new society they want to create. This includes the socialization of industry.

Near the beginning of Blue Mars, the Martians have chased the Terran forces off the planet, but they remain in control of the asteroid Clarke, the terminus for the space elevator allowing easier space transport between Earth and Mars. The Martians themselves are dangerously divided, and so to begin the unification of their forces against possible invasion, they hold a constitutional congress. In one of the numerous discussions and meetings, the issue of the socialization of industry is revisited. One member, Antar, is firmly against government interference in the economy. He is opposed by Vlad Taneev, a biologist and economist, who argues not just for socialization but for worker’s control.

‘Do you believe in democracy and self-rule as the fundamental values that government ought to encourage?’
‘Yes!’ Antar repeated, looking more and more annoyed.
‘Very well. If democracy and self-rule are the fundamentals, then why should people give up these rights when they enter their work place? In politics we fight like tigers for freedom of movement, choice of residence, choice of what work to pursue – control of our lives, in short. And then we wake up in the morning and go to work, and all those rights disappear. We no longer insist on them. And so for most of the day we return to feudalism. That is what capitalism is – a version of feudalism in which capital replaces land, and business leaders replace kings. But the hierarchy remains. And so we still hand over our lives’ labour, under duress, to fee rulers who do no real work.’
‘Business leaders work,’ Antar said sharply. ‘And they take the financial risks-‘
‘The so-called risk of the capitalist is merely one of the
privileges of capital.’
‘Management -‘
‘Yes, yes. Don’t interrupt me. Management is a real thing, a technical matter. But it can be controlled by labour just as well by capital. Capital itself is simply the useful residue of the work of past labourers, and it could belong to everyone as well as to a few. There is no reason why a tiny nobility should own the capital, and everyone else therefore be in service to them. There is no reason they should give us a living wage and take all the rest that we produce. No! The system called capitalist democracy was not really democratic at all. That’s why it was able to turn so quickly into the metanational system, in which democracy grew ever weaker and capitalism every stronger. In which one per cent of the population owned half of the wealth, and five per cent of the population owned ninety-five per cent of the wealth. History has shown which values were real in that system. And the sad thing is that the injustice and suffering caused by it were not at all necessary, in that the technical means have existed since the eighteenth century to provide the basics of life to all.
‘So. We must change. It is time. If self-rule is a fundamental value. If simple justice is a value, then they are values everywhere, including in the work place where we spend so much of our lives. That was what was said in point four of the Dorsa Brevia agreement. It says everyone’s work is their own, and the worth of it cannot be taken away. It says that the various modes of production belong to those who created them, and to the common good of the future generations. It says that the world is something we steward together. That is what it says. And in our years on Mars, we have developed an economic system that can keep all those promises. That has been our work these last fifty years. In the system we have developed, all economic enterprises are to be small co-operatives, owned by their workers and by no one else. They hire their management, or manage themselves. Industry guilds and co-op associations will form the larger structures necessary to regulate trade and the market, share capital, and create credit.’
Antar said scornfully, ‘These are nothing but ideas. It is utopianism and nothing more.’
‘Not at all.’ Again Vlad waved him away. ‘The system is based on models from Terran history, and its various parts have all been tested on both worlds, and have succeeded very well. You don’t know about this partly because you are ignorant, and partly because metanationalism itself steadfastly ignored and denied all alternatives to it. But most of our micro-economy has been in successful operation for centuries in the Mondragon region of Spain. the different parts of the macro-economy have been used in the pseudo-metanat Praxis, in Switzerland, in India’s state of Kerala, in Bhutan, in Bologna, Italy, and in many other places, including the Martian underground itself. These organization were the precursors to our economy, which will be democratic in a way capitalism never even tried to be.
(pp. 146-8).

It’s refreshing to see a Science Fiction character advocate a left-wing economics. Many SF writers, like Robert A. Heinlein, were right-wing. Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, about a rebellion on the Moon, contains several discussion in which Heinlein talks about TANSTAAFL – his acronym for There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch.

Praxis is the fictional metanational corporation, which supplies aid to the colonists against the rest of the terrestrial super-corporations. I don’t know about the references to Switzerland, Kerala, Bhutan or Bologna, but the Mondragon co-operatives in Spain certainly exist, and are a significant part of the country’s economy. They were set up by a Spanish priest during Franco’s dictatorship, but managed to escape being closed down as he didn’t recognize such enterprises as socialist.

I don’t know how practical it would be to make all businesses co-operatives, as there are problems of scale. Roughly, the bigger an enterprise is, the more difficult proper industrial democracy becomes. But co-operatives can take over and transform ailing firms, as was shown in Argentina during the last depression there a few years ago, when many factories that were about to be closed were handed over to their workers instead. They managed to turn many of them around so that they started making a profit once again. Since then, most of them have been handed back to their management, however.

But the arguments the Vlad character makes about democracy being a fundamental value that needs to be incorporated into industry is one of that the advocates of industrial democracy and workers’ control, like the Guild Socialists, made. And we do need to give workers far more power in the work place. Jeremy Corbyn has promised this with his pledge to restore workers’ and union rights, and make a third of the directors on corporate boards over a certain size elected by the workers.

If Corbyn’s plans for industrial democracy in Britain become a reality, perhaps Britain really will have a proper economic system for the 21st century, rather than the Tories and Libertarians trying to drag us back to the unfettered capitalism of the 19th.

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