class

Book Review: The Class Ceiling: Why It Pays to be Privileged by Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 28/01/2019 - 8:20pm in

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class, inequality

In The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged, Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison offer a unique and encapsulating analysis of class inequality at the top end of the UK labour market. The book is not only compulsory reading for anybody who still believes that the UK is a meritocracy, writes Liam Kennedy, but its mixed-methods approach allows for important, nuanced and often overlooked aspects of social mobility to be understood.

If you are interested in this review, The Class Ceiling is being launched at the LSE on Monday 28 January 2019 in a free public event. Find out more here.

The Class Ceiling: Why It Pays to be Privileged. Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison. Bristol University Press. 2019.

Find this book: amazon-logo

The utility and prospect of social mobility as a policymaking agenda remain hotly debated. Theresa May has spoken of the importance of the ‘British Dream’ and of ensuring people ‘no matter their class’ have an equal say in society. Yet, little over a year ago, the government’s own Social Mobility Commission resigned over a lack of political action. Going further back still, then Prime Minister Tony Blair had declared the end of class war, and debates have also raged in academia about the declining influence of social class.

In The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged, Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison put these arguments to bed by rigorously demonstrating the lasting impact that social class has on our career trajectories. Taking advantage of recent amendments to the UK’s largest employment survey and conducting 175 in-depth interviews across four elite occupations, the authors not only expose significant disparities in access to top jobs across social classes but also, and crucially, in those who progress in said jobs. They term this lack of progression as ‘the class ceiling’.

The first section of the book is dedicated to mapping out and analysing the class make-up of elite occupations. Unsurprisingly, there is significant variation in how diverse different high-status jobs are when it comes to social class. Yet, more interestingly, even within elite occupations there is a class pay gap of around £6,400. On a yearly basis, ‘those from upper-middle-class origins earn 16% more than those from working-class backgrounds, even in the same set of jobs’ (47).

What’s going on here? The book takes us through a variety of possible explanations. Maybe those from privileged backgrounds are getting paid more because they are older? Nope. Okay, maybe it’s because they’re whiter? Wrong again. Okay, got it. Maybe because they are men? Another no.

Here, Friedman and Laurison carefully emphasise that the class pay gap should not be seen as more important or more legitimate than pay gaps based on ethnicity or gender, nor do they work in isolation from one another. Rather, these attributes are intersecting and multiplicative. To take one of many examples: ‘Black British working-class women have average earnings in top jobs that are £20,000 less per year than those of privileged-origin white men’ (52).

Image Credit: (Son of Groucho CC BY 2.0)

The rest of Chapter Three systematically dismisses other justifications for the class pay gap. Education is not the great leveller – ‘even when those from disadvantaged backgrounds do get into Britain’s most hallowed universities, they do not receive the same earnings premium as those from privileged backgrounds’ (62). Even when controlling for ‘meritocratic’ factors, such as hours worked, years of experience etc, more than half of our original class pay gap persists. So again, we must ask, what is going on?

It is here the book progresses on to an examination of the class ceiling. Building on interviews across accounting, architecture, acting and television, the book dissects the mechanisms that prevent those from less privileged backgrounds progressing in their careers. The authors uncover four key drivers of the class ceiling: the Bank of Mum and Dad; sponsorship (where those further up the ladder coach newer entrants); dominant behavioural codes; and the self-elimination of the socially mobile (see Figure 11.1 on page 217).

The first explanation, the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’, is perhaps the most obvious. The material inequalities between people from different backgrounds profoundly affect the range of opportunities available to them. This is often downplayed by those who benefit from this ‘invisible’ helping hand, but it is vitally important. As others have argued, opportunities for merit are themselves determined by non-meritocratic factors.

Moving on, we encounter Sophie and Martin. Both are competing for the last place on a prestigious Future Leaders scheme within the television industry. Sophie is white, British, privately-educated and from an upper-middle-class background, while Martin is Black British and from a working-class background. In the end, despite very similar credentials, Sophie gets it. ‘All in all, I think she’s a better fit’ (123) is the justification.

This process of ‘fitting in’ is a key mechanism through which those from more privileged backgrounds get on in their occupations. The production, or not, of certain social codes can detract from your ability to ‘fit in’ through, for example, ‘a regional dialect that hasn’t been tempered’ (128), style of clothing or your choice of rucksack. In television, for example, there is a ‘correct way’ to dress. Informal, but not a lazy informal, as one interviewee notes: ‘like notice the trainers [points to her feet]… trainers, but smart trainers, that’s very 6TV’ (134).

These social codes often have a very exclusionary and isolating impact on those not familiar with them. In occupations with stark class ceilings, this ‘social closure’ of elite positions leads to an executive culture that can reinforce and solidify class barriers. As one interviewee commented: ‘Like at the last [meeting], I remember these two Commissioners suddenly started making references to classic literature […] I think it was Greek […] and then there was some Latin, and I was like […] I’m not, this is not my gaff!’ (146).

There are multiple examples of this kind of highbrow culture or what others have labelled ‘polish’ throughout the book, be this the ability to ‘intellectually critique’ in television, speak in received pronunciation in acting (156) or have the ‘gravitas’ to entertain clients in accounting (158). These invisible but keenly felt barriers can eventually lead those from working-class backgrounds to self-eliminate from pursuing career progression. It is important to stress, however, that this is far from a deficiency on their behalf but instead is to be seen in light of the very real, structural barriers in the labour market. As Diane Reay and others have previously emphasised, upward mobility can come at a heavy emotional and psychological cost.

The key driver of the class ceiling in top occupations, the authors determine, is the activation of this ‘embodied cultural capital’. Leaning heavily on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, they argue that being brought up ‘free from economic urgency’ allows those from privileged backgrounds to cultivate a comportment: a way of speaking, dressing, a general inflection or demeanour that can be ‘cashed-in’ in elite settings within the labour market (200). This production of cultural capital is continually misrecognised as merit which allows those from privileged backgrounds to get on at the expense of others.

Interestingly, however, there is less of a class ceiling to be found in architecture. This, the authors conclude, is down to the importance of ‘technical capital’ (203), where competency and knowledge is more easily evaluated than in areas where there is perhaps more ambiguity. To put it bluntly, clients in architecture ‘can see through any bullshit’ (142). This allows those from working-class backgrounds to more easily demonstrate their merit and rise to the top.

My one critique of the book would be that the epilogue, which has a number of recommendations for breaking the class ceiling, falls a little flat. Granted, the focus is on getting people to progress in work, but surely part of the problem here is that too few working-class people get in in the first place. Greater representation of working-class life and knowledge must be a fundamental stepping stone in challenging institutional classism within these elite professions.

All in all, however, The Class Ceiling is brilliant and to be wholeheartedly recommended to anyone interested in social class, inequality or meritocracy in contemporary UK society. Its innovative methodology, which powerfully elevates the voices of those studied, moves us beyond static and quantitative approaches to social mobility. The authors’ irrefutable conclusions present a real opportunity for change to be made and further research to be undertaken.

Liam Kennedy is Research Officer at CLASS, the Centre for Labour and Social Studies which is a think-tank dedicated to championing policy that works for everyday people. His research interests include inequality, social mobility and public perceptions of them. He tweets @liamkennedy92

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


Erik Olin Wright has contributed to making utopias real

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/01/2019 - 8:52am in

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class, Marxism

“Gramsci once described the struggle for social justice as requiring ‘pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.’ I believe in the world today we need an optimism of the intellect as well: an optimism grounded in our understanding of … Continue reading →

Doctor Who Series 12 Hiatus Hijinks: What to Watch While We Wait…And Wait

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 14/01/2019 - 4:15am in

It is a brand new year, ‘Resolution’ and its Dalek has come and gone, and we are now in for at least a year of waiting before we get any new Doctor Who television adventures…so what is a Whovian to do?

While I have seriously considered just being sad and yelling at people on the internet, there are much better ways to spend my television watching time over the next year. In order to save you from a similar fate, I have put together (with a little help from my Bleeding Cool friends) an incredibly long and not at all comprehensive list of shows (with random clips) to watch (or listen to) to fill that TARDIS-shaped hole in our hearts.

If You Like Quirky/Funny Doctor Who:

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – An attractive band of young heroes travels through time to save the Earth at vital moments throughout history. The show has an outlandish thread of ridiculousness about it that the showrunners fully embrace. Added bonus for Who fans: Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter and the occasional Doctor Who reference. Available on Netflix.

If You Like Setting Historical Wrongs to Rights:

Quantum Leap – Heaven Can Wait crossed with Doctor WhoQuantum Leap follows the adventures of physicist Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) as he jumps from body to body throughout his own lifetime. Unlike Who, Beckett takes the place (and the body) of a person in another time and attempts to fix whatever problem that individual is facing. Available on Hulu.

If You Like Friends As Family Travelling Time Together:

Timeless Lucy (Abigail Spencer), a historian, Wyatt (Matt Lanter), a soldier, and Rufus (Malcolm Barrett), a scientist, travel through time together to prevent a mysterious organization from changing American history while trying not to change history themselves. Lots of encounters with famous events, famous places, and famous people and historical costumes. Hulu

If You Love Captain Jack Harkness (And Think Companions Should Shoot More Guns):

Torchwood – An obvious choice since it is a Doctor Who spinoff, Torchwood follows the adventures of the Cardiff office of the Torchwood Institute: a secret agency that protects Earth from aliens and other threats that come from a rip in space-time that exists in the city. Led by immortal former companion Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and including kick-ass police officer Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), the show is unapologetically action packed and made for an older audience than Doctor Who. There are four seasons but you should only watch the first three. Trust me on this. Amazon Prime

If You Want More Jodie Whittaker and/or Chris Chibnall:

Broadchurch – Detectives Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) investigate the murder of a local boy in the town of Broadchurch, the mother of whom is played by current Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker. The first season follows the murder investigation, while the second season centers on the trial and the third follows Hardy and Miller through a rape investigation. Run by current Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall, Broadchurch is gritty, emotional, dark, and raw. Netflix

If You Like Teen Angst With Your Alien Monsters:

Class – Students at the Cole Hill School, a frequent visiting place for the Doctor, must protect the school from threats taking advantage of a weakening of space-time barriers on campus. As they battle the supernatural, the students must also face the scariest threat of all: being teenagers. Think Buffy The Vampire Slayer meets Doctor Who. Amazon

If you Prefer A Younger Target Audience (or Classic Doctor Who):

The Sarah Jane Adventures – Former companion to the Third and Fourth Doctors, Sarah Jane Smith is now all grown up and an investigative journalist and saving the world from aliens and other oddities. The Sarah Jane Adventures is a shorter form show (24 minute episodes) aimed at the same child audiences the original Doctor Who was designed for, with the same aliens and world-saving you love. Amazon Prime

If You Like Steven Moffat and Man-Splaining

Sherlock – Co-created by former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat and starring the incomparable Benedict CumberbatchSherlock is by far the best of the recent Sherlock Holmes inspired properties. Throughout four seasons (fifteen 90-minute episodes) Sherlock is assisted by the cynical and damaged Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman), who writes of their adventures in his blog. Netflix

If You Dream Of Being Swept To Another World By A Mysterious Stranger

Neverwhere – Created by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry, this miniseries follows the adventures of average London man Richard who is sucked into the secret world of London Below after helping a young woman he finds injured on the street. Stuck in this new, fantastical parallel world, Richard must work with his new friends to find a way home. Amazon

If You Are Missing Peter Capaldi 

The Thick Of It – A satirical British comedy about the fictional Department of Social Affairs, a watchdog department within the British Government. Full of incompetent ministers, political bulldogs, complicated hijinks and Peter Capaldi rants, the show is seen as the follow on to Yes Minister and the 2009 film In The Loop was a spin-off of the show. Hulu

If You Like Entertaining And Funny History:

Drunk History: UK – The British version of the wildly popular and hilarious US show, intoxicated comedians relay historical stories while actors poorly reenact the scenes. If you are going to do something badly, why not do it badly while drunk and telling jokes? Available on Amazon.co.uk. Hulu (U.S. version)

If Nothing But Doctor Who Will Do

Big Finish Doctor Who Audio DramasWant to experience new adventures with your favorite Doctor? Experience new companions with former Doctors? Check out the Big Finish audio dramas. These original stories feature Classic and New Who characters, sometimes with the original actors providing the voices, as well as introducing new characters. A great way to spend a little extra time with your favorite former Doctor. Amazon and BigFinish.com

Titan Comics: An excellent way to go on more adventures with your favorite Doctor. Titan currently has 197 Doctor Who titles in its collection, ranging from Classic to New Doctor Who Doctors. You can even go on additional adventures with the Thirteenth Doctor, as the third issue of Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor was released on January 2, 2019. As broken by Bleeding Cool at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, the 13th Doctor’s series will be written, drawn, inked, and edited by women.doctorwho hiatus watch

Classic Doctor Who – A whole year with no new Doctor Who is a perfect time to catch up on Classic Doctor Who episodes. Not only can you watch the Who episodes that have survived over the years, but you can also view the revived animated episodes that the BBC has recreated. BritBox

The post Doctor Who Series 12 Hiatus Hijinks: What to Watch While We Wait…And Wait appeared first on Bleeding Cool News And Rumors.

“Austerity is theft, the greatest transfer of wealth from poor to the rich since the enclosures.”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 05/01/2019 - 4:00am in

Fuad Alakbarov (Azerbaijani-Scottish human rights activist, political commentator and humanitarian.)

 

Demonstrators and People's assembly banner at an Anti-austerity protestPhoto – Peter Damian

In the week before Christmas, the Secretary of State for housing claimed that the sky rocketing levels of homelessness were down to social issues and had nothing to do with the government’s housing policy.  Then just a few days later George Osborne added his pennorth dismissing outright the link between his punitive austerity programme and Britain’s homelessness crisis saying, ‘It’s not a lack of money – that’s not a consequence of austerity – that’s just a consequence of bad policy”. When interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he went on to argue that poverty would have been worse without austerity. He suggested that when the Tories had come to power in 2010 the country was close to bankruptcy and that the public spending cuts were necessary to get the country back on its feet.

 

Within these words lie two dishonest and harmful narratives which have pervaded the public consciousness for decades and form the basis for people’s understanding of the world they inhabit.  They have set us on the road to a divided and unequal society.

 

Firstly, the ideological narrative that competition defines the human race, and thus the individual is responsible for his or her own fortune. It applies the biological evolutionary language of Darwin to the functioning of the economy and society. It posits that the State has no role to play in delivering public purpose and well- being and that it should not interfere in what is conceived to be a natural process of the survival of the fittest whereby the most motivated, strongest and powerful win.  It rejects outright the concept of mutual aid and cooperation as being fundamental to human and planetary thriving.

 

The political elites and the Fourth Estate have consistently demonised poor people, the sick and those with disabilities by the use of inflammatory language to create division both across and within the social classes. The constant reference by politicians and journalists to strivers and hard-working families is an example.  Or the provocative words of George Osborne who said “Where is the fairness, we ask, for the shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next-door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits.” Such images perpetuate hate, encourage violence, justify selfishness and a sense of entitlement as well drive the notion that personal fulfilment trumps the interests of the collective.

 

Secondly, the narrative that austerity was necessary to get the government’s accounts back into balance and that its role was to be fiscally responsible so as to not burden future generations with debt.

 

In 2010 and following George Osborne’s spending review Will Hutton noted that ‘Never before has a country with such a large economy, carrying so much private debt, taken the experience of near financial collapse to squeeze its budget with such severity and speed”.  The tried and tested Keynsian economics of fiscal spending were abandoned in a frenzy of cuts to public services, local government and welfare. The notion that the state money system was one great big household budget was invoked by deficit hawk economists and politicians alike and reference made to Liam Byrne’s note left in the Treasury that there was no money left.  Repeated allusions were made to paying down the state credit cards, taking the nation back from bankruptcy and the wisdom of living within one’s means.

 

George Osborne’s cuts drove deep cutting £81bn from government spending on the NHS, welfare, higher education, social housing, policing and local government to lead to the loss of over 500,000 jobs.  He vowed to restore ‘sanity to our public finances and stability to our economy’.  Using these false analogies, the Conservatives were able to justify their cuts to public services, the selling off of public assets and privatisation of public services, the paring down of the welfare state to bare bones to kick away the foundation stones of civil society.   Not for any financial imperative but because they made a political choice to do so.

 

Contrary to George Osborne’s claim that austerity was vital for the health of the economy the consequences have proved calamitous.  Every day the evidence piles up from overstretched hospitals, failing social care, crumbling infrastructure, the tragic personal stories of those affected by changes to benefits which have led to suffering and death, increased homelessness and death on the streets of Britain, hunger and the growth of food banks, closures of high street shops and a deteriorating economy. And yet, every day, government ministers shamelessly deny responsibility for the harm they are causing claiming that their policies are successful and defending their economic record.

 

In 1845 Friedrich Engels coined the phrase ‘social murder ‘whereby the class which holds social and political control places citizens in such a position that they inevitably meet an early or unnatural death.  Murder committed not by one individual against another but by the political elite against the poorest in society. One hundred and seventy three years on Dr Chris Grover from Lancaster University in a recently published report accuses the political elites of the same as a direct consequence of austerity and cuts to benefits which he says can be viewed as a form of “structural violence that is built into society and is expressed in unequal power and unequal life chances as it deepens inequalities and injustices and creates even more poverty.” He suggests that “as a result of austerity working class people face harm to their physical and mental well-being and in some instances are ‘socially murdered.”

 

People are not suffering and dying because of their own personal failings they are dying as victims of an ideology which has promoted austerity as a financial necessity when, in fact, it is the worst prescription of all. Umair Haque describes it as a force that is ripping the world apart, slashing through democracy, the future and society reducing the planet to a smoking wreck.

 

George Osborne boasted that austerity was necessary to save the economy by driving down deficits and the ‘national debt’ (never mind the fact it is our savings or that the government as the currency issuer can always settle its pound denominated liabilities).  This deliberate deception disguised its real purpose which was always about demolishing public services to shift the public narrative to acceptance of privatisation.  In this respect, it was shameful that Manchester University appointed the architect of Tory austerity as an Honorary Professor of Economics. In so doing it thoroughly insults all those who have suffered as a result of his unnecessary and harmful economic policies as well as discredits even further those subscribing to economic orthodoxy within the teaching profession.  Its decision to legitimise a man who has caused so much pain and suffering should have been called into question. Such servile behaviour in a seat of supposed learning was distasteful and has proved to be an odious appointment as his austerity chickens come home to roost.

 

It’s now time for the people to contest the lies and the cruel deception practised by ideologically driven politicians. Firstly, by recognising that nothing is set in stone and that there is an alternative to austerity. Secondly, by opening our eyes to the painful realities of cuts to public services and social security whereby people are suffering and dying as a result.  And thirdly, by getting to grips with how money works and the currency issuing nature of sovereign governments. Governments which need neither to tax nor to borrow to spend and whose limitations are not money but the real resources available to it to deliver its policies.

 

The truth is that government spending into the economy injects money into the purses and bank accounts of public sector workers who then take their earnings and spend them directly into the real economy, pay down their debts or save. In fact, a healthy economy depends on people spending, it depends on sales of goods and services. To give an example every £1 spent by government on the NHS will generate around £4.30 of spending as wages circulate around the economy. By cutting public spending, austerity has had the reverse effect which has led to soaring of unsustainable private debt and a downward economic spiral for all but the rich.

 

Once we grasp the essential truths of monetary realities we will be able to see the wood for the trees and recognise that the role of government is not to balance the budget but to balance the economy. Only in this way can we create a fairer, equitable and more sustainable world.

 

References

How Austerity Ripped the World Apart – Umair Haque

 

Austerity results in ‘social murder’ according to new research – Lancaster University

 

 

 

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The post “Austerity is theft, the greatest transfer of wealth from poor to the rich since the enclosures.” appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/01/2019 - 9:13am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

January 3, 2019 Samuel Moyn, author of Not Enough, on the paradox of human rights discourse arising alongside great inequality, and on the difference between poverty reduction and income compression

The Spanish Civil War and the Real Origins of Orwell’s Anti-Communism

Orwell’s 1984 is one of the very greatest classic dystopian novels depicting a bleak future in which the state has nearly absolute, total control. It’s particularly impressed Russians and others, who lived through and criticized Stalinism. Some of these have expressed amazement at how Orwell could have written the book without actually experiencing the horrific reality of Stalin’s USSR for himself. After the War, Orwell became a snitch for MI5 providing the agency with information on the suspected Communists. It’s a sordid part of his brilliant career as an anti-imperialist, socialist writer and activist. Conservatives have naturally seized on Orwell’s 1984, and the earlier satire, Animal Farm, to argue that the great writer had become so profoundly disillusioned that he had abandoned socialism altogether to become a fierce critic of it.

This is unlikely, as the previous year Orwell had written The Lion and the Unicorn, subtitled Socialism and the English. This examined English identity, and argued that for socialism to win in England, it had to adapt to British traditions and the English national character. But it didn’t reject socialism. Instead, it looked forward to a socialist victory and a socialist revolution, but one that would be so in keeping with English nationhood that some would wonder if there had been a revolution at all. He believed this would come about through the increasing blurring of class lines, and pointed to the emergence of a class of people occupying suburban council housing, who could not be easily defined as either working or middle class.

This view of the necessity of developing of a particularly British, English variety of socialism was one of the fundamental assumptions of the Fabians. They said in the History of the society that

‘Fabian Essays’ presented the case for Socialism in plain language which everybody could understand. It based Socialism, not on the speculations of a German philosopher, but on the obvious evolution of society as we see it around us. It accepted economic science as taught by the accredited British professors; it built up the edifice of Socialism on the foundations of our existing political and social institutions; it proved that Socialism was but the next step in the development of society, rendered inevitable by the changes which followed from the industrial revolution of the eighteenth century.

In Lane W. Lancaster, Masters of Political Thought, Vol. 3, Hegel to Dewey (London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd 1959) 309.

George Bernard Shaw, in his paper ‘The Transition to Social Democracy’, also stressed that the movement towards socialism was a proper part of general developments in British society. He wrote of the Fabian programme

There is not one new item in it. All are applications of principles already in full activity. All have on them that stamp of the vestry which is so congenial to the British mind. None of them compel the use of the words Socialism or Evolution; at no point do they involve guillotining, declaring the Rights of Man, swearing on the alter of the country, or anything else that is supposed to be essentially un-English. And they are all sure to come – landmarks on our course already visible to far-sighted politicians even of the party that dreads them.

Lancaster, op. cit., p. 316.

Shaw was right, and continues to be right. Thatcher wanted to privatise everything because she was afraid of the ‘ratcheting down’ of increasing nationalization, and believed this would result in the gradual emergence of a completely socialized British economy. And the fact that so much British socialism was based on British rather than continental traditions may also explain why Conservatives spend so much of their effort trying to persuade the public that that Socialists, or at least the Labour left, are all agents of Moscow.

It appears to me that what turned Orwell into an anti-Communist was seeing the Communist party abandon its socialist allies and attack their achievements under Stalin’s orders in the Spanish Civil War. The Trotskyite writer Ernest Mandel discusses this betrayal in his From Stalinism to Eurocommunism (New York: Schocken Books 1978).

The switch to a defence of the bourgeois state and the social status quo in the ‘democratic’ imperialist countries – which implied the defence of private property in the event of severe social crisis and national defence in the event of imperialist war – was made officially by the Seventh Congress of the Comintern. It had been preceded by an initial turn in this direction by the French Communist Party (PCF) when the Stalin-Laval military pact was signed. The clearest reflection of this turn was the Popular Front policy; its most radical effects came with the application of this policy during the Spanish Civil War. In Spain, the Communist Party made itself the most determined, consistent and bloody defender of the reestablishment of the bourgeois order against the collectivisations spontaneously effected by the workers and poor peasants of the Republic and against the organs of power created by the proletariat, particularly the committees and militias, which had inflicted a decisive defeat on the miltaro-fascist insurgents in nearly all the large cities of the country in July 1936. (p. 18).

Others have also pointed out that the nightmare world of 1984 is a depiction of a revolution that has taken the wrong turn, not one that has failed, which is another tactic adopted by Conservative propagandists. Orwell was greatly impressed by the achievements of the Spanish anarchists, and anarchism is highly critical of state socialism and particularly the USSR.

It thus seems to me that what Orwell attacked in Animal Farm and 1984 was not socialism as such, but its usurpation and abuse by bitterly intolerant, repressive groups like the Bolsheviks. It was a view partly based by what he had seen in Spain, and would no doubt have been reinforced by his awareness of the way Stalin had also rounded up, imprisoned and shot socialist dissidents in the USSR. Orwell was probably anti-Communist, not anti-Socialist.

Poverty and the Insensitivity of the Queen’s Speech

A few days ago Mike put up an article reporting the backlash against the monarchy that had occurred as a result of the Queen’s speech. I never saw it as I find the speech horrendously boring, but I gather that Her Maj had sat in a wonderful gilded room, complete with a priceless gold Erard piano, and urged us all to be tolerant of each other at this time. People were naturally more than a bit annoyed to hear someone, surrounded with the kind of wealth most people can only dream about, telling the rest of the country in effect that they had better respect their superiors when poverty is massively increasing and people are fearing for their jobs, their homes and whether they’ll be able to put food on the table for their children tomorrow.

They also resented the fact that the royal family, as rich as they are, are subsidized by the rest of us through our taxes. Mike in his article reproduced a number of tweets critical of the monarchy, pointing out that the Queen’s comments that we should put aside our differences in the national interest was the type of slogan the Tories come out with.

One of the tweets by Mark Adkins went further, and said that it wasn’t just the monarchy itself that was the problem, but what they represented: the British class system that made breeding more important than anything else, and which concluded ‘This world view helps justify racism, snobbery and the demonisation of the poor. A Republic is long overdue!’

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/26/insensitivity-of-queens-speech-prompts-backlash-against-the-monarchy/

I’m not a republican, but this did show that the Queen was seriously out of touch. She could have made her speech in more sombre settings or even actually on the front line, as it were, at a food bank to show that she was at least aware how much some people were suffering. It all reminded me of the comments the 19th century German socialist writer Adolf Glasbrenner made about the Prussian monarchy of his day in his piece Konschtitution. The piece is supposed to be an explanation of the German constitution by a father to his son, Willem. It’s written in the Berlin dialect, and is written from the perspective of someone, who really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s like some of Tony Hancock’s speeches, when he started talking about aspects of British constitutional history, that he obviously didn’t know anything about. Like his remarks in the episode ‘Twelve Angry Men’ about Magna Carta being a poor Hungarian peasant girl, who was burned at the stake in order to get King John to close the boozers at half past ten. Or like some of the rants by Alf Garnett about how great Britain is, but without the racism.

Amongst Glasbrenner’s skewed explanation of the Prussian constitution are his remarks on the monarchy. These include:

‘The King does, what he wants; and against that, the people do, what the kind wants. The ministers are therefore responsible for nothing happening. The king rules quite irresponsibly… Should the people come to penury or starvation, so is the king bound, to say he’s sorry.’ He also declares that the form of the state is ‘monarchical-pulcinelle’, the latter word a character from the Italian Commedia dell’arte. The commedia dell’arte was one of the sources of the modern British pantomime as well as Mr. Punch in the Punch and Judy show, so you could possibly translate the phrase into a British context by saying it was ‘monarchical-Mr. Punch’ The piece also has a line that ‘without Junkers (Prussian aristocracy), police and cannon freedom isn’t possible’.

Although it’s a spoof on the Prussian constitution and the classical liberal conception of the state, which was that it should simply guard against crime without interfering directly in society or the economy, it obviously has some relevance to the Tory conception of politics. This also stresses the monarchy, strongly rejects any kind of state interference, and also believes that freedom is only possible through the aristocracy, the armed forces and the police. Although the police aren’t being supported so much these days, as the Tories want to save money by cutting their numbers so that they protect the rich, while the rest of society are left to defend themselves from crime. Perhaps they still think we’ll all hire the private security guards like the Libertarians and Virginia Bottomley were so keen on as replacements.

More ominously, in the present situation over Brexit it also reminded me of a poem by the Liberal Serbian poet Zmaj Jovanovic, ‘The National Anthem of the State of Jutunin’ I found quoted in Vladimir Dedijer’s Tito Speaks (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1953). This is a memoir of the former Yugoslav dictator’s life and his break with Stalin and the Soviet bloc. It was printed in the last issue of Borba, a Communist magazine, when the Yugoslav king, Alexander, seized dictatorial power, dissolving parliament and banning political parties.

O thou, Holy God, keep our King alive
In good health, strong, proud and glorious,
Since this earth has never seen, nor shall
Ever see a king equal to him.
Give him, O Lord, the holiest gifts from heaven:
Police, gendarmeries and spies:
If he doesn’t fight the foe,
Let him keep his own people under his heel.
(p. 69).

I’m not accusing the Queen, nor the Duke of Edinburgh or anyone else in the royal family of planning to seize power and rule like an absolute monarch. But I am worried about Tweezer’s plan to put 3,500 troops on the streets in case of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. Under the Conservatives and New Labour Britain has become a very authoritarian society, including through the establishment of secret courts, where you can be tried in camera without knowing the identity of your accuser and with evidence withheld from your lawyers, all in the interests of national security. We now have a private company, the Institute for Statecraft, publishing smears in the media against Jeremy Corbyn and other politicians and public figures in Europe and America for the British and American secret state. And Mike reports that Tories are now requiring EU citizens or the children of EU citizens resident in England sign up to a central registry, which may make their information available to other public or private bodies without telling anyone which. This is another very disturbing development, as it seems that the British state is determined to leave them open to official persecution. And I’ve said in a previous blog post that a priest at my church, who ministered in Australia, is worried that if Corbyn gets into power, the Tories will try to get the Queen to dismiss him, just as they had her to do Gough ‘Wocker’ Whitlam in the 1970s.

I support the monarchy, but it needs reform and the Queen’s lack of tact in showing off her wealth at a time of great hardship has only made matters worse. And I’m afraid the increasing authoritarianism of the Tory and New Labour governments could discredit the monarchy if and when there’s a backlash.

Bakunin’s Advocacy of Worker Co-operatives

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 28/12/2018 - 9:04pm in

The Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin had a strange, contradictory attitude towards co-operatives. In his article ‘On Co-operation’, Bakunin argued that they could actually harm the workers’ movement. He was highly critical of those founded on what he considered to be bourgeois principles for two reasons. Firstly, they could collapse, leaving the workers involved demoralized and poorer than before. And secondly, if they were successful, they elevated a small group of workers to the bourgeoisie while other workers, what he called a fifth estate, were exploited by them. At the same time, he passionately supported co-operatives as a means of empowering the workers and as the beginning of the future socialist society he looked forward to.

In his article ‘Geneva’s Double Strike’ he wrote

Let us organize and enlarge our Association, but at the same time let us not forget to consolidate it so that our solidarity, which is our whole power, may become daily more real. Let us build our solidarity in study, in labour, in public action, and in life. Let us become partners in common ventures to make our life together more bearable and less difficult. Let us form as many cooperatives for consumption, mutual credit, and production as we can, everywhere, for though they may be unable to emancipate us in earnest under present economic conditions, they prepare the precious seedes for the organization of the future and through them the workers become accustomed to organizing their own affairs.

In Robert M. Cutler, ed. and trans., Mikhail Bakunin: From Out of the Dustbin: Bakunin’s Basic Writings 1869-1871 (Ann Arbor: Ardis 1985), p. 148.

And after laying out his criticisms of ‘bourgeois’ cooperatives and their advocates in ‘On Cooperation’, Bakunin then turns to promoting them. He wrote

We want cooperation too. We are even convinced that the cooperative will be the preponderant form of social organization in the future, in every branch of labour and science. But at the same time, we know that it will prosper, developing itself fully and freely, embracing all human industry, only when it is based on equality, when all capital and every instrument of labour, including the soil, belong to the people by right of collective property. Therefore before all else, we consider this demand, the organization of the international strength of the workers of all countries, to be the principal goal of our great International [Working-Men’s] Association.

Once this is acknowledged, we hardly oppose the creation of cooperative associations; we find them necessary in many respects. First, and this appears to us even to be their principal benefit at present, they accustom the workers to organize, pursue and manage their interests themselves, without any interference either by bourgeois capital or by bourgeois control.

It is desirable that when the hour of social liquidation is at hand, it should find many cooperative associations in every country and locality; if they are well organized and above all founded on the principles of solidarity and collectivity rather than on bourgeois exclusivism, then society will pass from its present situation to one of equality and justice without too many great upheavals.

Cutler, Mikhail Bakunin, p. 150.

I don’t believe in a radical transformation of society like Bakunin, who was an ardent revolutionary. But I would like more cooperatives to be founded, and this to become, with various other forms of industrial democracy, the dominant form of industrial organization. Working people should be able to organize and empower themselves so that they can resist the power of big business and Conservatism, which has stripped them of rights at work and even the promise of secure, well-paid jobs. There is a problem in that cooperatives can be less economical than capitalist enterprises, but the success of the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain shows that this is not necessarily the case. And cooperatives and industrial democracy, if done properly, will empower the workers and help break down the current class system and the increasingly oligarchical nature of business and politics.

Socialism and Equality in the Programme of the International Workingmen’s Association

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 28/12/2018 - 1:17am in

Last week I put up a piece arguing that one of the main differences between genuine socialism and Nazism and Fascism, which at times included socialist elements or affected socialistic postures, is that Socialism also demanded equality. Karl Kautsky in his writings stated that socialists supported the working class as the way to equality and the classless society. If this could be done better without socialism, then the latter would have to be discarded. Article 6 of the Preamble to the General Rules of the International Workingmen’s Association, agreed at the Geneva congress in 1866, explicitly included racial, national and religious equality. Bakunin gives the rules in the Preamble in his piece on ‘The Organisation of the International’ in Mikhail Bakunin: From Out of the Dustbin: Bakunin’s Basic Writings 1869-1871, Robert M. Cutler, ed. and trans. (Ann Arbor: Ardis 1985), pp. 137-44. They were

1. The emancipation of Labour should be the work of the labourers themselves;
2. The efforts of the workers to emancipate themselves should lend themselves to the establishment not of new privileges but of equal rights and equal obligations for everyone, and to the abolition of all class domination;
3. The economic subjection of the worker to the monopolizers of primatery materials and of the instruments of labour is the origin of all forms of slavery: social poverty, mental degradation, and political submission.
4. For this reason, the economic emancipation of the working classes is the great goal to which every political movement should be subordinated as a simple means;
5. The emancipation of the workers is not a simply local or national problem; on the contrary, this problem is of interest to all civilized nations depending for its solution upon their theoretical and practical circumstances;
6. The Association and all its members recognize that Truth, Justice, and Morality must be the basis of their conduct toward all men, without regard to colour, creed or nationality;
7. Finally the Association considers itself obliged to demand human and civil rights not only for its members but also for whoever fulfills his obligations; “No obligations without rights, no rights without obligations”.

Pp. 142-3, my emphasis.

I realise that there are exception to this rule. The Fabians were fully behind British imperialism and the Boer War, and Marx and Engels had deeply unpleasant views about how certain nations – the Celts and the Slavs – were reactionary and due to disappear from history. And I think its probably fair to say that it has only been after the great social changes in the 1960s that feminism and anti-racism have been more than the concern of a few intellectuals both within the Labour movement in Britain and outside it.

But nevertheless, the I.W.M.A’s programme does show a commitment to social equality was present in the working class movement from very early on, a commitment that continues to inspire and motivate socialists and working people today striving for a better world. A world without Fascism, which will try to take on some of its aspects in order to suppress real socialism.

T.H. Green’s Criticism of Utilitarian Laissez-Faire Individualism

T.H. Green was a 19th century British philosopher, who with others provided the philosophical justification for the change in Liberal politics away from complete laissez-faire economics to active state intervention. A week or so ago I put up another passage from D.G. Ritchie, another Liberal philosopher, who similarly argued for greater state intervention. Ritchie considered that the state was entitled to purchase and manage private enterprises on behalf of society, which Green totally rejected. However, Green was in favour of passing legislation to improve conditions for working people, and attacked the Utilitarians for their stance that Liberals such try to repeal laws in order to expand individual freedom. He believed the real reasons to objecting for laws affecting religious observances were that they interfered with the basis of morality in religion, and similarly believed that the real objection to the erection of the workhouses was that they took away the need for parental foresight, children’s respect for their parents and neighbourly kindness. He criticized the Utilitarians for demanding the removal of this laws on the grounds of pure individualism. Green wrote

Laws of this kind have often been objected to on the strength of a one-sided view of the function of laws; the view, viz. that their only business is to prevent interference with the liberty of the individual. And this view has gained undue favour on account of the real reforms to which it has led. The laws which it has helped to get rid of were really mischievous, but mischievous for further reasons than those conceived of by the supporters of this theory. Having done its work, the theory now tends to beco0me obstructive, because in fact advancing civilization brings with it more and more interference with the liberty of the individual to do as he likes, and this theory affords a reason for resisting all positive reforms, all reforms which involve an action of the state in the way of promoting conditions favourable to moral life. It is one thing to say that the state in promoting these conditions must take care not to defeat its true end by narrowing the region within which the spontaneity and disinterestness of true morality can have play; another thing to say that it has no moral end to serve at all, and that it goes beyond its province when it seeks to do more than save the individual from violent interference from other individuals. The true ground of objection to ‘paternal government’ is not that it violates the ‘laissez-faire’ principle and conceives that its office is to make people good, to promote morality, but that it rests on a misconception of morality. The real function of government being to maintain conditions of life in which morality shall be possible, and ‘paternal government’ does its best to make it impossible by narrowing the room for the self-imposition of duties and the play of disinterested motives.

T.H.Green, Political Obligations, cited in Lane W. Lancaster, Masters of Political Thought vol. 3, Hegel to Dewey (London: George Harrap & Co. Ltd 1959) 212.

Lancaster comments on this passage on the following page, stating

Green here approves the central idea of laissez-faire since he believes that the individual should be allowed to make his own choices, and he concedes that early liberal legislation had been on the whole directed to that end. He does not believe, however, that the general good of society could be served in the altered conditions of English life by leaving people alone. This is the case, he thinks, because real freedom implies a choice of actions, and actual choices may not exist when, for example, the alternative to terms set by landlord or employer is destitution or dispossession. His criticism amounts to the charge that laissez-faire is only the defence of class interests, and as such ignores the general welfare. (p. 213).

It’s a good point. Clearly Green is far from promoting that the state should run the economy, but, like the passage I put up by Ritchie, it’s an effective demolition of some of the arguments behind Libertarianism. This is sometimes defined as ‘Classical Liberalism’, and is the doctrine that the state should interfere as little as possible. But as Green and Ritchie pointed out, that was no longer possible due to the changed circumstances of the 19th century. Green is also right when he makes the point the choice between that offered by a landlord or employer and being thrown out of work or on the street is absolutely no choice at all, and that in this instance laissez-faire individualism is simply a defence of class interests. This is very much the case. Libertarianism and later anarcho-capitalism was formulated by a group of big businessmen, who objected to F.D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The members of this group include the Koch brothers, the multi-millionaire heads of the American oil industry. It became one of the ideological strands in the Republican party after Reagan’s victory in 1980, and also in Thatcherism, such as the Tories idea that instead of using the state police, householders could instead employ private security firms.

Green and Ritchie together show that the Classical Liberalism to which Libertarianism harks back was refuted long ago, and that Libertarianism itself is similarly a philosophy that has been utterly demolished both in theory and in practice.

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