wages

Hunger and Starvation in Tory Britain

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/01/2020 - 9:23pm in

The Tory governments that came in after David Cameron’s victory in the 2010 election have caused massive poverty up and down Britain. Thanks to austerity, welfare benefits have been cut, wages kept low and workers placed on exploitative contracts, like zero hours contracts, which deny them sick pay, paid holidays and other rights. An ever increasing number of people are unable to pay for food, with the disabled and unemployed forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together after being found fit for work, sanctioned, or simply because they have to wait weeks before their first benefits payment. Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity gives some statistics on rising ‘food poverty’, and they’re horrifying.

In the chapter ‘Hunger and Food Poverty’, Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton state

Emergency food provision has been used as an indicator of the scale of food poverty in the UK. As the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty noted in 2015, the Trussell Trust, the largest emergency food provider, ‘has seen the number of people referred for emergency food rise by 38 per cent in the last year’. Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty calculate that 20,247,042 meals were given to ‘people in food poverty’ in 2013/14.’ While these are shocking statistics, they are likely to underestimate the numbers in food poverty in Britain; not all people who are hungry go to food banks and not all food banks collect data in a systematic way. The Poverty and Social Exclusion UK (PSE UK) 2012 study found that the proportion of households unable to afford two adult meals a day in 2012 stood 3 per cent, ‘back to levels found thirty years earlier having to dropped to negligible levels in the intervening period.’ In addition, well over half a million children live in families who cannot afford to fee them properly, that is, provide at least one of the following three meals a day; fresh fruit and vegetables every day; or meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent at least once a day. If many parents were not cutting back on their own food intake to protect their children, the number would be much higher… (pp.94-5).

Analysis by the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows that falling incomes and rising living costs mean that food is now over 20 per cent less affordable for the poorest 10 per cent of people in the UK compared to 2003. In 2012, when the proportion of the household budget spent on food peaked in the UK, those in the lowest income decile spent 22 per cent more on food than in 2007 and purchased 5.7 per cent less, buying significantly fewer portions of fruit and vegetables than previously. Further, the number of UK adults who have reported being unable to afford meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every other day (a measure of adequate protein in the diet) has increased between 2004 and 2012, that is, in the context of economic austerity and rising food prices. The PSE UK study noted above found that the proportion of adults going without meat or equivalent every second day  because they could not afford it rose from 2 per cent in 1999 to 5 per cent in 2012. In addition, 3 per cent of children went without adequate protein and the same proportion did not eat fresh fruit or vegetables every day because their families could not afford it. Reduced affordability of food therefore generally leads to a reduction in nutrient quality of food consumed and, in a growing number of cases, to hunger and reliance on emergency food provision. (pp.95-6).

This is a crisis of enormous proportions, and it is going to get worse. Much worse. Boris will continue and expand the policies forcing people into such desperate poverty. But yesterday the wretched Tory press were telling the world that he would bring in a golden age of prosperity. Which he will, for the profiteers at the top of the corporate ladder and the hedge fund managers that contribute so handsomely to Tory coffers.

But to pay for that, the rest of the country will be forced into grinding poverty. While the newspapers lie to them that there’s not alternative and they’re richer than ever before.

Austerity: Making Women Poorer and Removing their Protections from Violence

I found this passage explaining how women have been among the worst affected by the Tories’ austerity policies in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity. Since the policy was introduced, women have suffered a particularly greater loss of income than other groups, and the Tories have massively cut the funding for their protection. The writers state

Moreover, as political sociologist Daniela Tepe-Belfrage has argued, gender is a key marker in determining:

the largest drop in disposable income since the crisis has been experienced by women. Women are also more likely to be employed in the public sector or be subcontracted to the state via private sector organisations (for example, in the form of cleaners or carers). As the UK’s austerity policy regime has especially targeted public services women have been particularly affected, facing wage drops and job losses. Austerity has also had a ‘double-impact’ on women as, buy virtue of being disproportionally in caring roles, they tend to be more likely to depend on the public provision of social services such as childcare services or care provision.

Research published by the Northern Rock Foundation and Trust for London found that austerity has had a sudden and dramatic impact on services supporting women victims of domestic violence. Between 2009/10 and 2010/11 there was a 31 per cent cut in the Local Authority funding for domestic and sexual violence support. The report stated clearly that: ‘These cuts in service provision are expected to lead to increases in this violence.’ The report noted that 230 women were beinig turned away by the organisation Women’s Aid because of lack of provision in 2011. (p. 14).

Women of colour have been especially affected.

The multiple and intersectional nature of class, gender, disability and race means that, for example, black women will be exposed to austerity policies differently to white women. Social support for black women, already paltry, has been cut to the bone in the austerity period., just as support for refugees and people seeking asylum has been subject to the confluence of a range of policy prejudices. (same page).

Akwugo Emejulu and Leah Bassel discuss the particularly high unemployment rates for BAME women in their chapter, ‘Women of Colour’s Anti-Austerity Activism’. They state that women of colour were actually extremely impoverished before the Coalition government started the policy. They write

Well before the 2008 crisis, women of colour, on the whole, were already living in an almost permanent state of austerity. As the All Party Parliamentary Group for Race and Community noted in its inquiry into the Labour market experiences of Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in Britain: ‘For all groups except for Indian men, ethnic minority unemployment has consistently remained higher than the rate for white people since records began.’ African and Caribbean women have an unemployment rate of 17.7 per cent, for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women it is 20.5 per cent, compared to 6.8 per cent for white women. Women of colour who are employed are more likely to be concentrated in low-skilled, low paid and temporary work – regardless of their educational qualifications. These unequal experiences in the labour market, unsurprisingly, translate into high levels of household poverty with poverty rates for minority groups at 40 per cent – doubtle the rate of the white population in 2007. (p. 118)

They note that these rates of poverty do not feature in either popular or policy discussions about the austerity crisis, and ask ‘whose crisis counts and whose crisis is being named and legitimated?’

They then go on to discuss some of the reasons why Black women are particularly worse off.

Austerity causes further immiseration due to its uneven effects. Because women of colour are more likely to be employed in the public sector in feminised professions such as teaching, nursing and social work, because women of colour and migrant women in particular are more likely to be subcontracted to the state via private sector organisations in low-skilled, low paid and temporary work as carers, cleaners and caterers, and because women of colour are more likely to use public services because they are typically the primary care givers of children and/or older adults, austerity measures clearly increase women of colour’s unemployment while simultaneously reducing the scope, coverage and access to public services. (pp.118-9)

But don’t worry – the Tories and Lib Dems are right behind women, because the Tories have had two women leaders – Margaret Thatcher and Tweezer – and the Lib Dems have had one, Jo Swinson. Labour is obviously full of misogynists, because they don’t have any. Even though Corbyn’s policies would have made women better off and there was a solid commitment to racial equality, which the Tories definitely don’t have.

And under Boris Johnson, is all going to get worse.

The History Book on the TUC from Its Beginnings to 1968

The History of the T.U.C. 1868-1968: A Pictorial Survey of a Social Revolution – Illustrated with Contemporary Prints and Documents (London: General Council of the Trades Union Congress 1968).

This is another book on working class history. It’s a profusely illustrated history of the Trades Union Congress from its origins in 1868 to 1968, and was undoubtedly published to celebrate its centenary.

Among the book’s first pages is this photograph show the TUC’s medal, below, which reads: Workingmen of Every Country Unite to Defend Your Rights.

There’s also these two illustrations on facing pages intended to show the TUC as it was then and now.

After the foreword by the-then head of the TUC, George Woodcock, and the list of General Council in 1967-8, the book is divided into four sections on the following periods

1868-1900, on the first Trades Union Congress and the men who brought it to birth.

1900-1928, in which the TUC was consulted by Ministers and began to take part in public administration.

1928-1940, which are described as the TUC’s formative years and the fight for the right to be heard.

and 1928-1940, in which wartime consultation set the pattern for peacetime planning.

These are followed by lists of trade unions affiliated to the TUC circa 1968 and the members of the parliamentary committee from 1868 and the General Council from 1921.

The text includes articles and illustrations on the Royal Commission of Inquiry into trade unions, including a photograph of Queen Victoria’s letter; from the beehive of 1867 to the TUC of 1967; the early leaders of the TUC and the political causes at home and abroad, for which they rallied trade union support; some of the events that led to the TUC’s foundation and the Royal Commission on Trade Unions; the TUC and the Criminal Law Amendment Act; working men voting during the dinner hour; working hours and conditions which the TUC wanted to reform, particularly of women and children; Punch cartoon of the sweated workers exploited for the products displayed at the Great Exhibition; Alexander McDonald, the man behind the miners’ unions; campaigns for compensation for industrial injury and safeguards for sailors; farm labourers’ unions, the public and the church; the advent of state education and the birth of white collar unions; mass unemployment and demonstrations in the Great Depression of the 1880; the trade union leaders of the unemployed and their political allies; squalor and misery in London; forging the first link with American unions; the TUC on the brink of the 20th century; the ‘new unionism’ and the matchgirls’ strike; the dockers’ strike of 1889; the birth of the Labour Party in 1906; passage into law of the TUC’s own trade union charter; the trade unions and the beginnings of the foundation of the welfare state by the Liberals; Women trade unionists, the Osborne Judgement; the introduction into Britain of French and American syndicalism; the great dock strike of 1911, and the great transport strike of 1912; the Daily Herald; Will Dyson’s cartoons; the TUC on the eve of World War I; the War; the wartime revolution in trade unions; the TUC’s contribution to the war effort; rise of shop stewards; the impact of the Russian Revolution on the British Labour movement; peace time defeat; the appearance of Ernest Bevin; the replacement of the Parliamentary Committee by the General Council in the TUC in 1921; the first proposal for the nationalisation of the coal mines; 1924, when Labour was in office but the trade unions were left out in the cold; the gold standard and the General Strike; the Strike’s defeat and punitive Tory legislation; the TUC’s examination of union structure after the Strike; TUC ballots the miners to defeat company unionism; Transport House in 1928; the Mond-Turner talks and consultations between workers’ and employers’ organisations; Walter Citrine and the IFTU; the 1929 Labour government; opposition to McDonald-Snowden economies; McDonald’s 1931 election victory; propaganda posters for the National Government; the 1930s; the state of industry and TUC plans for its control; union growth in the young industries; young workers fighting for a fair chance; the TUC and the British Commonwealth; the Nazi attack on the German unions; the TUC and the international general strike against the outbreak of war; the waning of pacifism inside the TUC; the Labour Movement and the Spanish Civil War; Neville Chamberlain and ‘Peace in our Time’; summer, 1939, and the outbreak of World War II; Churchill’s enlistment of the TUC and Labour Party in government; the coalition government and the unions; TUC organises aid to Russia after the Nazi invasion; plans for post-War reconstruction; the TUC, godfather to the Welfare State; the Cold War; the bleak beginning of public industries in 1947; David Low’s cartoons of the TUC; the drive for productivity; the Tories and the Korean War; TUC aid to Hungary and condemnation of Suez; the official opening of Congress House; TUC intervention in industrial disputes; trade union structure; from pay pause to planning; trade unionists given a role in industry; government pressure for a prices and incomes policy; TUC overseas contacts; and recent changes to the TUC.

The book’s an important popular document of the rise of the TUC from a time when unions were much more powerful than they were. They were given a role in government and industrial movement. Unfortunately, the continuing industrial discontent of the post-War years have been played on by nearly every government since Thatcher’s victory in 1979. The result is stagnant and falling wages, increasingly poor and exploitative conditions and mass poverty and misery. All justified through Zombie laissez-faire economics. Corbyn offered to reverse this completely, and give working people back prosperity and dignity. But 14 million people were gulled and frightened by the Tories and the mass media into rejecting this.

Strong trade unions are working people’s best method for expressing their economic and political demands along with a strong Labour party, one that works for working people, rather than solely in the interest of the employers and the financial sector. Which is why the Tories want to destroy them and are keen that books like these should be forgotten.

Let’s fight against them, and make sure that books like this continue to inspire and inform working class people in the future.

 

Nationalised, State Healthcare Gives the Poor More Money and More Power

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 16/12/2019 - 9:57pm in

One of the arguments Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have been pushing to attack state healthcare is that, as it’s funded through public taxes, it somehow leaves people worse off. I came across a recent right-wing video on YouTube that seemed to be pushing that line. It proclaimed that American university students were all in favour of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All – until they were told what it would cost them. I didn’t watch it, because I knew it would annoy me. Similarly, over here the Tories and Blairites have been telling people that the inclusion of the private sector will bring costs down, thus allowing government to make savings and cut taxes. In fact, private healthcare is wastefully bureaucratic, far more so than state healthcare. But the Tories just want to cut taxes for the rich without making the lives of the poor any better. Indeed, they are determined to make them worse through savage welfare cuts, wage freezes, and further attacks on workers’ rights and employment conditions. And by encouraging more people to take out private health insurance in order to avoid their manufactured problems in state healthcare, the costs are transferred to the consumer. For the rich this is no problem. For middle income groups, it means having to pay thousands for operations and procedures that should be routine and free. They are worse off.

The book Health Reform: Public Success – Private Failure, Daniel Drache and Terry Sullivan, eds., (London: Routledge 1999) makes the point that Lord Beveridge, the architect of the modern welfare state, believed the contrary. State welfare provision which actually leave the poor and working people better off. Without doctors’ and hospital bills to pay for their illness, they would have more disposable income. The book states

It is not sufficiently recognised that by removing the financial burden of catastrophic illness from their wage packets, their disposable incomes would rise. No longer would they have to pay doctors from their pockets when their children were born or they fell sick and when they went to hospital; lack of money did not constitute a barrier to good care. These reforms, along with the spread of collective bargaining in advanced industrial economies, enabled people to enjoy the benefits of an expanded notion of social citizenship. Healthcare and full employment thus constituted a forward-looking framework for social health and not simply clinically provided health care. 

(p. 10).

Which means that the prosperity given to working people through free medical care, full employment and strong trade unions can act as proper citizens, able to make political and economic choices that will affect government.

Which is why the Tories and the Republicans in America have attacked trade unions and scrapped the idea of full employment, because they give working people too much power. And what’s the odds that similar thinking also isn’t one of the factors in their attacks on state healthcare. Oh, they do honestly believe that private enterprise is always better than state provision, but the threat of medical bills in a private healthcare system as well as general poverty is a good way of keeping the workforce cowed and fearful.

NHS privatisation will not make healthcare cheaper and more efficient. It will just make working people poorer and allow more bullying and exploitation from their employers.

It’s Hammer Time! Cassetteboy’s Latest Video Against Boris Johnson

Mike put this up on his blog a few days ago, but it’s well worth repeating and publicising. Cassetteboy is another group of fun-filled pranksters like JOE, who produce satirical videos by carefully editing the speeches and actions of the great and not-so-good so that they appear stupid and nonsensical. They’ve done this yet again to our unfunny, murderous Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to reveal how stupid, cruel and massively unjust his government and its policies are. They’ve edited it so that he’s reciting a description of his failings and injustices to the tune of MC Hammer’s ‘Can’t Touch This’. Which, due to Johnson’s own massive deceitfulness and mendacity, has been changed to the chorus ‘Can’t trust me’.

The video begins with Johnson repeatedly stammering out ‘My, my, my’ and then

‘My Brexit is so hard

Makes you say

“Oh my word.

What about my job security?

Sick pay, healthcare and the economy?”

These are the things

You need to discuss

When I say

“Brexit won’t hurt you much!”

Remember the lies on the side of a bus,

I am a guy who you can’t trust.’

There then appears the caption ‘Sacked by the Times for lying’.

He goes on, singing

‘Can’t trust me.

Then another caption ‘Sacked from the Shadow Cabinet for lying’.

Can’t trust me.

I promised thousands more police

But that’s less than we already cut.

If you trust me you must be off your nut.

I lied to the Queen to get Parliament shut.

I say the Tory party ‘Is the party of prosperity

But not for the 130,000 people killed by our austerity.

Nor for disabled people robbed of money and their dignity.

Or the millions of children our policies

Have left in child poverty.

Are those kids mine? probably not

But I won’t admit how many I’ve got’

Another caption here, ‘Wont admit how many kids he has’.

‘Can’t trust me’.

Then another caption: ‘Lied to the Queen to illegally shut down Parliament’.

‘Can’t trust me’.

‘The planet now is burning at a terrifying rate

And I don’t even turn up to the climate change debate.

And now let me say this, two of my biggest disgraces

Are of course that I’m homophobic and a racist.

Stop. Stammer time.’

The video then moves into footage of Johnson stuttering and stammering away, under which appears another caption, (Affected waffle, disguising genuine lack of preparation, competence and decency).

‘Stop. Stammer time.’

One more thing before this ends,

You don’t judge a man’, and the next voice is that of Donald Trump, completing the sentence, ‘by his friends’.

‘Our standards will fall with a bump as I align us all with Trump,

Allow the NHS to fail and off it to Trump for sale.

It will no longer belong to you though I say

That’s not what we’ll do.

Is that true? Here’s one way of proving if I’m lying

if my lips are moving.

Another caption: ‘Won’t apologist for racist and homophobic comments.’

‘Can’t trust me.’

And then the screen is filled with text showing his various failed and harmful policies.

‘Can’t trust me’.

The richest have tax loopholes

While schools can’t afford loo rolls.

We’ve failed the NHS and left the country in a mess and

To the best to fix it are myself and Rees-Mogg

Is like expecting dog shit to be cleaned up by the dog.’

The video ends with a black screen on which the slogan ‘Vote Boris Out’ is written in white text. There’s then the Cassetteboy jingle, the sound of someone sighing or snoozing, and a final scene of Johnson making a throat-cutting gesture at LBC.

The dialogue’s invented, but everything it says is true.

Vote him out!

Here’s the video.

 

 

 

Desperate Tories Now Using Smear Manuals against Labour and Lib Dems

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/12/2019 - 4:15am in

I love the smell of Tory fear in the morning! You can tell how desperate the party of Thatcher and Johnson are when they’re reduced to lies and smears. Not that they were above them anyway, but now they seem to be rapidly abandoning any attempt at fair play. Mike reports that an article in today’s Groaniad reveals that the Tory party is equipping its doorstep campaigners with special dossiers they are to use against their opponents. There’s a 17 page one for Labour, and a 19 page one for the Liberal Democrats. These manuals contain such fictional statements that Labour’s immigration policy would open the door to 840,000 migrants a year, and that the Lib Dems are trying to push sex work as an appropriate career for schoolchildren and policies that are pro-pimp.

Mike comments that people seem to believe some of this nonsense, but that it isn’t putting them off voting Labour. Someone had tweeted him personally that in spite of Labour’s ‘open door policy on immigration’, they were still going to vote for the party. As this person was doing the right thing, Mike didn’t correct them.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/03/not-sporting-not-working-tories-are-using-manuals-to-smear-rivals-but-they-arent-changing-minds/

Okay, the accusation that Labour is in favour of open door immigration and this country being swamped with non-White immigrants has been a staple of the right and the far right since forever and a day. It’s one of the constant lines – or lies – repeated by newspapers like the Heil, for example. The other stereotypical smear against Labour, and one which Private Eye has parodied mercilessly in the past, is that a Labour government will bring mortgage prices down. I haven’t seen jokes about that line recently in the magazine, perhaps because if the Heil actually did run, the exorbitant house prices at the moment would mean that Labour’s vote would actually go up.

But the accusation that the Lib Dems are promoting pimping and prostitution is a new one. I think it comes from a conference the Lib Dems held a year or so ago, which was about improve conditions for sex workers. One of the talks was about taking the stigma out of it. But the Lib Dems don’t seem to pushing pro-pimp policies or encouraging schoolgirls to get jobs as prostitutes.

But it does seem more than a tad hypocritical on the part of the Tories as they are and have been.

Way back in the 1980s, when Maggie Thatcher that was unchaining the power of private industry, one industry that a certain section of her minions definitely wanted unchained from state prohibition was prostitution. There was a certain section within the Tory party, as I recall, that wanted it legalised. I think they used the same arguments for it that have been around ever since the late 17th century-early 18th century economist Bernard Mandeville put them forward. Mandeville was an early advocate of free trade against the prevailing mercantilism, in which the state rigidly regulated trade between nations and colonies. Mandeville wanted publicly funded brothels. These, he argued, would allow the men, who used prostitutes to satisfy their lusts legally, while protecting decent women from their attentions. I think the Lib Dems, who set up the conference also had a feminist angle. They seem to have felt that if prostitution was legalised, it could be properly regulated to keep the prostitutes themselves safe. I think the models for such legislation are the continent and Australia. I’m sceptical that these arguments actually work in practice. But the main point here is that the Lib Dems haven’t necessarily promoted anything that the Tories weren’t debating nearly forty years ago.

But the Tories are forcing people into prostitution.

It is by and large the last refuge of the poor and desperate, women and men who can’t make ends meet any other way. Under Thatcher there was a series of scandals in which Tory politicos were caught using rent boys. So much so that there was a sketch on Spitting Image in which a Tory politician, explaining what his government has done to the nation, declares that it has opened lots of work for young men to a lad. When the lad asks what work it is, the Tory replies that it is as a rent boy, and he’ll see him later.

More recently, there were reports a few years ago about female students turning to prostitution in order to pay the tuition fees that New Labour introduced, but the Tories and Lib Dems increased.

And let’s not forget another incident, in which a Jobcentre had to apologise for suggesting that work in sex shops was a suitable occupation for women wishing to get off the dole.

I don’t know, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if there had been an increase in prostitution in general as women were forced to turn to it simply to keep body and soul together through the poverty Tory welfare cuts, wage freezes and zero hours contracts have caused.

The Lib Dems may not have been actively promoting prostitution with their conference, but the Tories have also openly advocated it and their policies are pushing vulnerable women into it through the poverty they’re creating.

Astronomer Vladimir Firsoff’s Argument for Space Exploration as a Positive Alternative to War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/12/2019 - 11:58pm in

Vladimir Firsoff was a British astronomer and the author of a series of books, not just on space and spaceflight, but also on skiing and travel. He was a staunch advocate of space exploration. At the end of his 1964 book, Exploring the Planets (London: Sidgwick & Jackson) he presents a rather unusual argument for it. He criticises the scepticism of leading astronomers of his time towards space exploration. This was after the Astronomer Royal of the time had declared that the possibility of building a vehicle that could leave the Earth’s atmosphere and enter space was ‘utter bilge’. He points out that the technology involved presented few problems, but that ordinary people had been influenced by the astronomers’ scepticism, and that there are more pressing problems on Earth. Against this he argued that humanity needed danger, excitement and sacrifice, the emotional stimulation that came from war. Space exploration could provide this and so serve as a positive alternative, a beneficial channel for these deep psychological needs. Firsoff wrote

The traditional planetary astronomy has exhausted its resources. No significant advance is possible without escape beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The orbital observatories to come will reveal much that is now hidden about the other planets. Space travel is a short historical step ahead. The basic technical problems have been solved, and the consummation of this ancient dream is only a matter of a little effort, experiment and technical refinement. When Bleriot flew the Channel the Atlantic had already been spanned by air lines. And so today we have already landed on Mars – even Triton and Pluto have been reached.

But do we really like to have our dreams come true?

Possibly that happy extrovert the technologist has no misgivings. He sees the Solar System as an enlargement of his scope of action, and has even suggested preceding a descent on Mars by dropping a few bombs, “to study the surface” (this suggestion was widely reported in the press). Yet the astronomer does not relish the prospect of leaving his ivory tower to become a man of action. He is troubled by this unfamiliar part, and a small voice at the back of his mind whispers insidiously that his cherished theories and predictions may, after all, be false. The dislike of space travel is psychologically complex, but there is no mistaking its intensity among the profession.

The general public shares these enthusiasms  and apprehensions, more often than not without any clear reasons why. The Press (with a very capital P) feeds them with predigested mental pulp about what those ‘wonderful people’ the scientists have said or done (and not all scientists are 12 feet tall). At the same time the scientist is a ‘clever man’, and the ‘clever man’ is traditionally either a crank or a scoundrel, and why not both? Whatever we do not understand we must hate.

Of such promptings the fabric of public opinion is woven into varied patterns.

“Space flight is too expensive. We can’t afford it”… “What is the point of putting a man on the Moon? It is only a lifeless desert.”… “We must feed the backward nations, finance cancer research” (= in practice “buy a new TV set and a new care”)…

Wars are even more expensive and hugely destructive, and cars kill more people than cancer and famine put together.

And yet before 1939 Britain ruled half the world, her coffers were stuffed with gold, she also had 5 million on the dole, slums, an inadequate system of education, poverty and dejection. Came a long and terrible war, a fearful squandering of resources, the Empire was lost, and in the end of it it all the people “had never had it so good”, which for all the facility of such catch-phrases is basically true. Not in Britain alone either-look at West Germany, look at the U.S.S.R.! One half of the country devastated, cities razed to the ground, 30 million dead. BHut in Russia, too, the “people had never had it so good”.

In terms of ‘sound economics’ this does not make any sense. 

The reason is simply: ‘sound economics’ is a fraud, because Man is not an economic animal, or is so only to an extent. He needs danger, struggle, sacrifice, fear, loss, even death, to release his dormant energies, to find true companionship, and-oddly-to attain the transient condition of happiness … among or after the storm.

That German soldier who had scribbled on the wall of his hut: “Nie wieder Krieg heisst nie wieder Sieg, heisst nie wieder frei, heisst Sklaverie” (No more war means no more victory, means never free, means slavery) was a simple soul and he may have survived long enough to regret his enthusiasms among the horrors that followed. Yet the idea, distorted as it was, contained a germ of truth. For heroic endeavour, which the past enshrined as martial valour, is as much a necessity as food and drink. We must have something great to live for.

Hitler’s ‘endeavour’ was diabolical in conception and in final count idiotic, but it cannot be denied that it released prodigious energies both in Germany and among her opponents, and we are still living on the proceeds of this psychological capital.

What we need is a noble uplifting endeavour, and even if we cannot all take direct part in it, we can yet share in it through the newspapers, radio and television, as we did, say, in the epic rescue operation during the Langede mining disaster. It became a presence, everybody’s business-and I doubt if it paid in terms of £ s.d…

You will have guessed what I am going to say.

Mankind needs space flight. Let us have space ships instead of bombers, orbital stations instead of ‘nuclear devices’. The glory of this great venture could do away with war, juvenile delinquency and bank raids. It could be cheap at the price.

It is a fallacy to imagine that money spend on developing spaceflight is lost to the nation; it is only redistributed within it, and it is much better to redistribute it in the form of real wages than in unemployment relief. Besides, real wealth is not in a ledger; it is the work and the willingness to do it.

Yet if we go into space, let us do so humbly, in the spirit of cosmic piety. We know very little. We are face to face with the great unknown and gave no right to assume that we are alone in the Solar System.

No bombs on Mars, please.

For all that they are well meant and were probably true at the time, his arguments are now very dated. I think now that the majority of astronomers are probably enthusiasts for space flight and space exploration, although not all of them by any means are advocates for crewed space exploration. The Hubble Space Telescope and its successors have opened up vast and exciting new vistas and new discoveries on the universe. But astronomers are still using and building conventional observatories on Earth. Despite the vast sums given to the space programme during the ‘Space Race’, it did not solve the problems of crime or juvenile delinquency. And it was resented because of the exclusion of women and people of colour. Martin Luther King led a march of his Poor Peoples’ Party to the NASA launch site to protest against the way money was being wasted, as he saw it, on sending White men to the Moon instead of lifting the poor – mainly Black, but certainly including Whites – out of poverty. And as well as being enthused and inspired by the Moon landings, people also grew bored. Hence the early cancellation of the programme.

And people also have a right to better healthcare, an end to famine and a cure for cancer. Just as it’s also not wrong for them to want better TVs and cars.

But this isn’t an either/or situation. Some of the technology used in the development of space travel and research has also led to breakthroughs in other areas of science and medicine. Satellites, for example, are now used so much in weather forecasting that they’re simply accepted as part of the meteorologists’ tools.

But I agree with Firsoff in that space is an arena for positive adventure, struggle and heroism, and that it should be humanity’s proper outlet for these urges, rather than war and aggression. I think the problem is that space travel has yet to take off really, and involve the larger numbers of people in the exploration and colonisation space needed to make it have an obvious, conspicuous impact on everyone’s lives. There is massive public interest in space and space exploration, as shown by Prof. Brian Cox’s TV series and touring show, but I think that to have the impact Virsoff wanted people would have to feel that space was being opened up to ordinary people, or at least a wider section of the population than the elite scientists and engineers that now enjoy the privilege of ascending into Low Earth Orbit. And that means bases on the Moon, Mars and elsewhere, and the industrialisation of space.

But I think with the interest shown in the commercial exploitation of space by Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, that might be coming. And I certainly hope, with Firsoff, that this does provide a proper avenue for the human need for danger and adventure, rather than more war and violence.

Private Eye’s Demolition of Cameron’s Book about His Government

Way back at the beginning of October, our former comedy Prime Minister, David Cameron, decided to give us all the benefit of his view of his time in No. 10 with the publication of his book, For The Record by William Collins. The review of it in Private Eye was not kind. Reading it, it appears that Cameron was deeply concerned to present a rosy, highly optimistic view of his years as Prime Minister. His was a government that gave Britain prosperity and growth, and had improved conditions in the NHS. The current, wretched economic and political situation is all due to everyone else, not him. It’s entirely false, as the Eye’s review made abundantly clear, citing Cameron’s book again and again as it he tries to claim success in tackling an issue, only to show the present grim reality and how Johnson actually made it all worse with Brexit.

The review, titled ‘Shed tears’, in the magazine’s issue for 4th – 17th October, runs

John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln at a Washington theatre inspired the quip: “Apart from that, Mrs, Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” David Cameron’s autobiography leaves the reader asking: “Apart from Brexit, Mr Cameron, how did you enjoy being prime minister?”

“I liked it,” he declares, and so should we. At 800 pages, this account of his generally tedious career – apart from Brexit – is only 200 pages shorter than Churchill’s Second World War memoirs. Indeed, Dave may have originally matched Winston, for the Mail reported his publishers cut 100,000 words from the manuscript.

The verbose special pleading William Collins so sadistically allowed to survive tries to anesthetise readers into accepting that – apart from Brexit – they should applaud his playing at being prime minister too.

When Cameron stood for leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, he recalls, “Everyone said that I was too young. That I had no ministerial experience.” Instead of worrying that a gentleman amateur would lead the country to perdition, we should have rejoiced. “However new and inexperienced” he was, young Cameron saw himself “inheriting the mantle of great leaders like Peel, Disraeli, Salisbury and Baldwin.”

In 2010, with the world in crisis, he followed his illustrious predecessors and produced one of the “most stable and I would argue, most successful governments anywhere in Europe”. That Brexit has subsequently produced a paralysed parliament, culture war without end in England, the highest support for Welsh independence ever recorded, a revitalised Scottish National Party and a clear and present danger to the peace in Ireland must be someone else’s fault.

Only Ukraine is a less stable European country now. Not that Cameron can admit it. The Brexit referendum was “a sore confronted”, he says, as if he were a doctor who had healed wounds rather than a quack who had opened them. His greatest regret is for himself, not his country. “I lament my political career ending so fast,” he sighs. Brexit ensured that he went from private citizen to national leader to private citizen again in 15 years. “I was a former prime minister and a retired MP at the age of 49.”

He shouldn’t despair. His work experience on the British now completed, Cameron could be ready to hold down a real job should one come his way.

As for his supposed successes, in his own terms he would have a point – were it not for Brexit. “When I became prime minister my central task was turn the economy around,” he says. Now the British Chambers of Commerce reports that companies are living through the longest decline in investment in 17 years. He left Downing Street in 2016 “with the economy growing faster than any other in the G7”, Cameron continues, showing that whatever else he learnt at Eton, it wasn’t humility. The UK is now bottom of the G7 growth table, while the governor of the Bank of England is warning a crash out could shrink GDP by 5.5 per cent.

By the time Brexit forced his resignation, “hospital infections, mixed-sex wards and year-long waits for operations were off the front pages.” In the very week his book appeared, patients were preparing as best they could for a no deal Brexit cutting off drug supplies, while NHS trusts were wondering what would happen to the 8 percent of health and social care staff they recruit from the EU.

“It was clear to me that reasserting Britain’s global status would be one of our biggest missions in government,” Cameron says of the premiership, while failing to add that the Britain he left was both a warning and laughing stock to the rest of the world.

Regrets? Come off it. “One of the core ideas of my politics,” Cameron tells those readers who survive the long march through his pages,m “is that our best days are ahead of us and not behind us, I don’t think Brexit should alter it.” The bloody fool does not realise his best days are behind him  and he (and the rest of us) have nothing to show for them – apart from Brexit.

It’s not the comprehensive demolition that Cameron’s mendacious book deserves. It hasn’t just been Brexit that’s caused mass poverty, starvation, despair and misery to Britain. It was the policies he and his government both inherited from New Labour, and ramped up and added a few of their own. He continued the Thatcherite policy of the destruction of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS, as well as the wage freeze and pushing zero-hours and short term contracts. As well as allowing firms to make their workers nominally self-employed, so they don’t have to give them things like sick pay, holidays or maternity leave. Thanks to his policies, as continued by Tweezer and then Boris, a quarter of a million people have to rely on food banks for their daily bread, 14 million people are in poverty and an estimated number of 130,000 people have died after being found ‘fit for work’ by the DWP.

As for the tone of lofty self-assurance with which Cameron makes his assertions, that can only come from someone, who has enjoyed immense privilege throughout his life, and never suffered uncertainty due to the advantages bestowed by his background. He got a job at Buckingham Palace, remember, because they actually rang him up and asked for him. Thatcher’s former Personal Private Secretary, Matthew Parris, in his book Great Parliamentary Scandals observes that MPs, contrary to received wisdom, are not polished all rounders. Rather they are more likely to be the lonely boy at school. They have huge, but fragile egos due to the respect the public gives them tempered with the humiliation they receive at the hands of the whips and the awareness of how little power they really have. All the decisions are made by the Prime Minister. Parris’ own career as a cabinet minister came to a sharp end when he sent a rude reply to a letter sent to the former Prime Minister. Clearly, Cameron himself has never suffered, or appears not to have, from any kind of personal or professional uncertainty. He’s always been supremely confident in his own ability, choices and decisions. It’s this arrogance that has caused so much suffering to the country and its working people. But he certainly hasn’t suffered the consequences. Instead of trying to do something about the mess he created with Brexit, he left it for others to do so. And we’re still grappling with that problem nearly four years later.

Cameron’s was the start of a series of Tory governments that have actually left this country far worse than Tony Blair’s administration. Blair was determined to sell off the NHS, but he kept it well funded and he had some success in tackling poverty. It was the Tories who massively expanded the use of food banks instead of giving the disabled, unemployed and poor the state support they needed.

Cameron’s book is therefore one mass of self-delusion and lies. As have all the statements about how well the country is doing from his successors. Don’t vote for them. Vote for Corbyn instead.

 

It May Be Profit Season for US Companies, but Workers Are Left in the Red

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/11/2019 - 12:00am in

Today is Black Friday, the start of the holiday shopping season. Retail workers will leave their Thanksgivings early—if they enjoy one at all—to start long shifts for too little pay in order to support the consumer binging that is America’s holiday season. The deals for shoppers may be sweet, and the profits for companies will be exponentially sweeter; but the cost for workers will be steep, a symptom of a sector and economy that are stacked against workers, and especially against women workers. 

The boon of Black Friday and the month of holiday shopping it launches contribute to the retail sector’s role as a pillar of the US economy. In recent decades, however, retail jobs have become increasingly precarious. One in ten US workers have jobs in the retail sector, and over 60 percent of US workers will have a frontline retail job early in their careers. Retail employers chronically pay poorly, and they fail to offer employee benefits and predictable or reliable schedules. The median hourly wage of retail workers is just $11, and one in three jobs in the retail sector are part time. When adjusted for inflation, the average hourly pay for retail workers has fallen by $2 since the early 1970s. 

Meanwhile, the cost of fundamental needs—including goods, housing, transportation, health care, and education—have markedly increased, meaning that all of these trends put a secure and stable life further and further out of reach for retail workers. 

The majority of retail workers you’ll see today and throughout the holiday season will be women, who are disproportionately represented in the lowest-paying retail jobs and in low-wage work more generally. Women are 60 percent of workers in the low-wage workforce, and nearly 70 percent of these workers make less than $10 an hour, with Black and Latinx workers overrepresented in those jobs. As the Center for Popular Democracy illustrated, in general merchandise stores, such as Target and Walmart, women make up more than 80 percent of cashier workers, the lowest-paid position in the sector. In recent years, retail work has become even more precarious for women, who have lost jobs in the retail sector while men have gained them. 

The rush of holiday consumerism that starts today will help to fuel sky-high corporate profits, few of which will trickle down to workers (or toward business investments like innovation that help consumers). But it hasn’t always been like this. There was a time when retail workers were more economically secure and more likely to be able to purchase the goods they were selling for their own families. 

During the mid 1900s, a stronger labor movement meant that many retail employers provided a better workplace experience, including reliable schedules and benefits like vacation days. During this time, 35 percent of all workers were in unions. Today, fewer than 7 percent of all workers and 4.5 percent of retail workers are organized; as a result, workers are far less likely to have jobs with solid pay, schedules, and benefits. 

While secure work has been eroded for retail workers, the people who employ them are doing better and better. Since 1978, CEO pay has grown 940 percent while typical worker compensation has only seen a mere 12 percent bump—though in some industries, it has declined. Last year the 30 highest-paid retail CEOs each made more than $15 million, and many made a lot more than that. While workers of color scrape by, runaway CEO pay lines the pockets of overwhelmingly white men

These trends are not inevitable. They are the result of bad choices made by those in power. One of those choices is the proliferation of stock buybacks, which occur when a company buys back its own shares from the open market and artificially increases share prices. This is a wonky concept that most of us think has little to do with average workers, but many companies are spending billions of dollars on buybacks instead of putting that money toward raising wages for the workers without whom their business would fail. With the money they spent on buybacks in recent years, Starbucks could have increased compensation for its nearly 300,000 workers by $24,729, and Walmart—the country’s largest retailer and the largest private employer of women, Black, and Latinx workers—could have increased the hourly wages of its more than 1 million hourly workers by more than $5 with the $10 billion it spent on buybacks. But they didn’t. 

As millions enjoy the deals of Black Friday, retail workers and their families will pay the price this holiday season and throughout the entire year. It is long past time that employers and our society more broadly put workers—the backbone of US companies and our economy—first. This shift would help ensure that workers aren’t left behind when the rest of us have the chance to save a few bucks.

The post It May Be Profit Season for US Companies, but Workers Are Left in the Red appeared first on Roosevelt Institute.

Oh No! ‘I’s’ Simon Kelner Now Criticises Chief Rabbi for Attack on Labour

I don’t really have any time for Simon Kelner. If I recall correctly, he started out as a reporter on the mid-market Tory tabloids before moving to the I. He’s very much a Tory, and has been one of those pushing the anti-Semitism smears against Labour in that newspaper’s pages. He has frequently cited his own Jewishness as some kind of proof of his assertion that Corbyn’s Labour is anti-Semitic, even though there are very many other Jews, who know that Corbyn isn’t and never has been, and could use the same argument to back up their beliefs. But it seems that yesterday’s remarks in the Times by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis repeating the smears were a step too far even for him. In today’s edition, Kelner has written an article, ‘The Chief Rabbi is wrong to preach about Labour’ criticising Mirvis and his comments. He still seems to be trying to peddle the line that Labour is anti-Semitic and Corbyn is deeply distasteful to Jews. But he realises that if Corbyn and Labour do come to power, they aren’t going to persecute the Jewish community.

He begins the article by quoting Mirvis’ own remark that  by convention, the Chief Rabbi should be above party politics, commenting that

it’s safe to say that the spiritual leader of Britain’s Jews understands that his treatise on anti-Semitism in the Labour party – on the very day that Labour launched its faith and race pledges – was unprecedented, unconstitutional and potentially divisive.

He then goes on to talk about Mirvis’ better qualities – he isn’t a self-publicist, has encouraged equality for women in orthodox synagogues, supported LGBT students and promoted interfaith understanding. He’s addressed a Church of England synod, and an invited an imam to talk to his congregation while he was a rabbi in Finchley. Mirvis declared in his article that challenging racism was above party politics, before going to talk about how the overwhelming majority of Jewish Brits were afraid of Corbyn and Labour getting into power.

Kelner continues

In fairness, I don’t think they are the only community gripped by anxiety about such an outcome, but his point is that Labour’s failure to deal properly with the anti-Semitism in its ranks reveals a deeper and wider threat to the fabric of society. “Be in no doubt,” he says, portentously, “the very soul of our nation is at stake.”

Has Rabbi Mirvis overstepped the mark with such a politically incendiary contribution? If politicians don’t “do God”, should men of God do politics? It depends entirely on whether you agree with the Rabbi’s viewpoint, and, in this, and as a Jewish person myself, I find it hard to get behind him.

Yes, the Labour hierarchy has, at the very least, been found wanting in the way it has dealt with accusations of anti-Semitism within the party. It has done too little, too late, and this has been extremely bad politics on Labour’s part. It deserves to be castigated for this,. But does it amount to an existential threat to British Jewry, as Rabbi Mirvis warns?

I would suggest not. “What will become of Jews and Judaism in Britain if the Labour Party forms the next government?” he asks. Well, nothing much, would be my answer. There will be no pogroms in north London, and having Jeremy Corbyn in No 10 will not immediately legitimise anti-Semitic sentiment and unleash a new hatred against Jews. There may be many reasons why you wouldn’t vote for Labour on 12 December, but the fear of Jews being drive to the edge of society should not be one of them.

I understand why many Jews of my acquaintance feel a distaste for Corbyn’s brand of politics, and the Chief Rabbi is, of course, entitled to his opinion. Given his position of privilege and influence, however, I rather wish he had heeded his own words and kept it to himself.

There are a number of issues to be raised here. Firstly, his statement that Labour hasn’t done enough to tackle anti-Semitism is a flat-out lie. Labour has just about bent over backwards to tackle the issue. They’ve ordered inquiries and suspended and expelled members. Indeed, they’ve conceded too much. The real reason for the anti-Semitism allegations has always been political. The Israel lobby are frightened of Corbyn, because he wants justice for the Palestinians and an end to Israeli apartheid and their slow-motion dispossession and expulsion. It is definitely not because he’s anti-Jewish. Indeed, his record in tackling anti-Semitism and racism is exemplary. For the Tories, Lib Dems and Blairites in Labour, the anti-Semitism allegations were nothing but a useful tool to force him and his supporters out. Hence the entirely fake allegations and kangaroo trials of decent people like Mike, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth, Ken Livingstone, Chris Williamson and many, many others. The Thatcherites – and this include the Lib Dems and the Blairites – simply want to get rid of Corbyn and his supporters because they want to restore the welfare state, revitalise the NHS and public services by ending privatisation and bringing them back into public ownership, and give working people proper rights at work, decent wages and strong trade unions to defend them.

The various communities Kelner claims are also afraid of Labour coming to power are, I would say, those of rich industrialists, newspaper proprietors, editors and right-wing journalists, afraid of this attack on their wealth, power and profiteering.

Kelner has also shown that he’s afraid that by opening his mouth, Mirvis has opened the door to other religious leaders making party political statements. And the Tories are particularly vulnerable to this. They’ve had numerous very public disputes with the Church of England and several archbishops ever since Dr. Robert Runcie and the Church published a report in the 1980s about how Thatcher her policies were causing massive poverty in Britain. Clearly Kelner’s afraid that Mirvis is in danger of setting a precedent for more religious criticism of Thatcherism.

And Mirvis himself is a prime target for such criticism, as he’s a friend of Boris Johnson who congratulated him on becoming Prime Minister.

He also seems to be worried about how Mirvis’ sputterings about racism look compared to Labour. Mirvis made his remarks on the day Labour published its pledges on race and faith, promising fresh legislation to tackle racism and revising the school curriculum so it covered the British Empire, colonialism and slavery.  Corbyn himself is a determined anti-racist activist, who was arrested protesting against apartheid outside the South African embassy.

And what has Mirvis done?

Well, zip, as far as I can make out. And worse than zip. Tony Greenstein has put up an article today revealing that Mirvis joined the former Chief Rabbi when the latter took a party of British Jews to join the March of the Flags in Jerusalem a few years ago. This is the occasion when Israeli bovver-boys parade through the Muslim section of the Holy City waving Israeli flags, vandalising Palestinian homes and property, chanting ‘Death to the Arabs’. He also supported Norman Tebbit’s infamous ‘Cricket Test’. Tebbit, a former Cabinet minister under Thatcher, had a simple rule for determining who was properly British: they should support England at Cricket. If Blacks and Asians didn’t, they weren’t British. And Mirvis apparently agreed with him.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/11/the-hypocrisy-of-ephraim-mirviss.html

And it also appears that Kelner is worried about the consequences for the Jewish establishment – which includes not just the Chief Rabbinate, but also the Board of Deputies of British, Jewish Leadership Council and so on – if Corbyn does come to power. Because he knows full well that Corbyn isn’t an anti-Semite and won’t launch pogroms. British Jews will carry on with their own business and lives untouched and unmolested. And that’s a danger to the Chief Rabbinate and other official organs of the Jewish community, because their scaremongering against Labour will be shown to be mistaken at best. At worst it will reveal that the Jewish establishment is politically motivated and biased, and its accusations against Labour are unfounded and profoundly deceitful.

And this, it could be argued, would be far more damaging to the Jewish establishment than any threat Labour supposedly represents.

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