Category Archives: Government
Common Wealth was formed when the 1941 Committee, launched by J.B. Priestley, merged with Forward March (formerly Our Struggle) formed in 1940 and named after the book of that name by Sir Richard Acland. Our Struggle proclaimed:
We are fighting to get a better world, and we will NOT go back to the old world we knew after the last war . . . to the world of unemployment queues . . . the world in which from birth to death “the rich” and “the poor” lead utterly different lives. The little group of men who happen to have got to the top shall not be allowed to keep things all in their own hands, to shut us out of any control over our own lives, and to preserve scarcity in their own interests when we could produce plenty in the interests of all.
Common Wealth’s membership ranged from soldiers fighting in the trenches to many well-known academics, politicians and writers (listed in this document which also published its fine Declaration of aims)
Their slogan was “Common Wealth asks not WILL IT PAY but IS IT RIGHT?”
Many events and combinations included interaction with Fenner Brockway, the National Peace Council, the international Congress of Peoples against Imperialism, the Netherlands Third Way peace movement: De Derde Weg, CND and the Committee of 100. The text records
- strong links with some Chinese groups,
- effective opposition and frequent silencing of Oswald Mosley’s fascists and
- picketing of the Savoy Hotel which was then making very low-paid people work in squalid conditions.
Though Common Wealth confined itself in later years to political education, for several years it was involved with electoral politics.
Members of Parliament
Richard Acland (Barnstaple 1942-1945)
Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater 1942-1945)
John Loverseed (Eddisbury 1943-1945)
Hugh Lawson (Skipton 1944-1945)
Ernest Millington (Chelmsford 1945-1946)
In 1945 it polled the highest number of votes of all the minority parties. At this time there were 160 active branches. A year after celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1992, many of its members having died, it disbanded.
Although the party no longer stood candidates at parliamentary level, a number of individual members stood for the Labour and Ecology/Green Parties, whilst others became local councillors.
Common Wealth later became associated with the burgeoning ecology movement and, later, regional organisations, including the Campaign for the North, based in Hebden Bridge, Wessex regionalists, the SNP, an Orkney and Shetland group, Plaid Cymru, Mebyon Kernow and the Movement for Middle England.
In December’s FT John McTernan set out the evidence: “Something deeper is going on. From corporate capitalism to housing, from climate change to transport, Labour’s ideas are framing the decisions the new government is making”. He continued:
Since this was written the Financial Times, which used to be ‘about’ supporting free trade, now has a new editor and a new noncommittal agenda:
Though the latest article by Rana Faroohar, Global Business Columnist and Associate Editor at the Financial Times, has been written from an American perspective, it relates to Britain’s situation.
She points out that many corporate sectors are deeply in debt and most are reliant on financial engineering to create the illusion of growth and innovation. companies used to reinvest their earnings to boost productive capacity. Now, they mostly generate “value” by downsizing and distributing to the richest.
In pure Corbynese she states:
- we cannot afford to repeat the mistaken “socialise the losses, privatise the gains” approach used a decade ago.
- We have to start by protecting individual citizens and consumers
- giving immediate cash payouts to individuals, recapturing unnecessary payments the other side of the crisis, via the tax code
- When it comes bailouts, small and midsized businesses should come first.
- They should be given grants, not loans. Many run tight margins as it is, and would not be able to survive any additional debt burden
- If big companies want government money, they need to protect their workers and
- government should consider taking preferred equity stakes in such companies
Ending in true socialist vein: “Unlike the bank bailouts of 12 years ago, let’s socialise not just the losses but also the gains”.
Due to WordPress problem I cannot upload an image to this site. It is included in the email alert
Discredited? Labour’s commitments made in opposition were jettisoned by Tony Blair when in power. For instance:
- the railways were not renationalised,
- anti-union laws were not repealed and
- the earnings link with pensions was not restored.
It supported the US President’s decision to make war on Iraq which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and – according to Professor Goodman and many others – destabilised large areas of the Middle East.
Tony Blair’s hour-long speech on Labour’s 120th anniversary at Kings College (20.2.20): “We must redefine what radical means” may be heard here or read in full here.
He states that Labour has always won when it secured the centre of British politics and refers to the 2019 campaign as substituting ‘a narcissistic belief in our righteousness for professionalism’.
‘Three overarching strategic challenges’ are advocated by Blair to achieve ‘fundamental reconstruction’:
- First, we must build a new progressive coalition with LibDems, to put Labour values into practice.
- Second we need a re-imagining of the modern economy.
- Third: the right ideas in politics never work without the mentality of government.
Strangely enough he sees these three recommendations as ‘profound changes to philosophy, policy and practice’. Stating the obvious he concludes:
“2020 isn’t 1997 or even 2007. And 2030 will be a revolution different from 2020. It’s always about the future. Precisely because of that, because whilst pointing forwards, we have been travelling backwards, nothing less than “born again” head to toe renewal, will do”.
This performance recalls another such ‘poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage (offering) a tale . . . full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’.
Ellen Brown reports that Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO) has been compared with the United Kingdom’s left-wing opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. He and his left-wing coalition won by a landslide in Mexico’s 2018 general election, overturning the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that had ruled the country for much of the past century. Some points made in her article are recorded below.
Called Mexico’s “first full-fledged left-wing experiment,” AMLO’s election marks a dramatic change in the political direction of the country. AMLO wrote in his 2018 book “A New Hope for Mexico,” “In Mexico the governing class constitutes a gang of plunderers…. Mexico will not grow strong if our public institutions remain at the service of the wealthy elites.”
The new president has held to his campaign promises. In 2019, his first year in office, he purged the government of technocrats and institutions he considered corrupt, profligate or impeding the transformation of Mexico after 36 years of failed market-focused neoliberal policies. Other accomplishments (recorded here) have included
- substantially increasing the minimum wage
- while cutting top government salaries and oversize pensions;
- making small loans and grants directly to farmers;
- guaranteeing crop prices for key agricultural crops;
- launching programs to benefit youth, the disabled and the elderly;
- initiating a $44 billion infrastructure plan and building 2,700 branches of a government-owned Bank of the Poor.
At a press conference on Jan. 6, he explained that the neoliberal model had failed; private banks were not serving the poor and people outside the cities, so the government had to step in
Ellen Brown reports that when speaking to a local group in December, President Obrador said his goal was to set up a Bank of the Poor with 13,000 branches, more than all the private banks in the country combined. Two days later he explained, at a news conference on Jan. 8: “There are more than 1,000 municipalities that don’t have a bank branch. We’re dispersing [welfare] resources but we don’t have a way to do it. . . . People have to go to branches that are two, three hours away. If we don’t bring these services close to the people, we’re not going to bring development to the people. … I’ll invite you within two months, three at the most, to the inauguration of the first branches because they’re already working, they’re getting the land … because we have to do it quickly”. Digital banking will also be developed.
Branches will be built on land owned by the government or donated, and software companies have offered to advise for free. The 10 billion pesos ($530.4 million) needed to build the new branches would come from federal savings from other programs and the bank’s operating expenses will be covered by small commissions paid on each transaction by customers, most of whom will be welfare recipients.
López Obrador’s goal is to construct a “new paradigm” in economic policy aiming not only to increase gross domestic product but also to improve human welfare.
Labour’s official report on the election result was circulated as election co-ordinators Andrew Gwynne and Ian Lavery gave a verbal presentation on Tuesday at a meeting of Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC). According to Politics Home it was leaked to the Financial Times. Jim Pickard’s straightforward appraisal in the FT is summarised below.
The authors briefly considered the possibility that Mr Corbyn’s leadership and radical manifesto could have played a role in the defeat arguing neither had been a problem in the 2017 general election, when the party made large electoral gains, stating: “It is unlikely that radicalism per se was the problem in a country looking for change”
Trafford, May 2019
Mr Corbyn (Ed: who attracted many thousands of new members to the party and drew huge crowds to his meetings) far from being a weak or divisive leader, was instead the victim of four years of unrelenting attacks on his character. This had been an “assault without precedent in modern politics”.
The document concluded there had been no easy way for Labour to address the Brexit issue given the way in which it divided voters.
The writer wonders if the document made any reference to the influence of the prolonged wrecking activities of disloyal Labour MPs?
One such, Wes Streeting, the MP for Ilford North, writing in the Telegraph, said: ”It is very clear that history has been rewritten by the losers, who are more interested in covering up the litany of failure that they have presided over rather than providing the Labour Party with an open, honest account of what has gone wrong. Labour’s election result was a result of poor political leadership in Parliament and poor organisational leadership in the party”.
Regular readers of this site will agree that quite a powerful factor in the defeat was due to constant repetition of inaccurate and derogatory material in the right-wing press provided by the constant barrage of criticism from Mr Corbyn’s own colleagues, who spared no effort in their attempts to discredit their leader.
The Conservative government owes disloyal Labour MPs such as Tom Watson, Wes Streeting. John Woodcock, Jess Philips, Margaret Hodge and Joan Ryan a huge debt of gratitude.
Mervyn Hyde writes: “I feel that in order to get to the heart of our struggle we need to highlight where power lies and the tools by which the powerful maintain their interests”.
If we are to convince people that there is such a thing as a better life, we have to inform them of the past and how things have to come to pass – from the first world war to the present day
It should of course be obvious that neoliberalism is the main tool that took hold in the early 1970s; the other tools are the institutions and language used to propagate the messages that sustain the whole system.
An American description:
Prior to the 1970s a pre-war dispute raged between Friedrich Von Hayek and John Maynard Keynes as to what economic values best served people’s interests. Naturally Keynes won the argument and his policies were broadly implemented post the Wall Street crash and the last world war; they created growth and an expansion of living standards never seen before.
- Greater openness to international trade and investment;
- total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services;
- de-unionisation of workers, lowering of wages and working conditions;
- cutting public expenditure for social services like education and health care;
- reducing the welfare safety-net;
- eliminating the concept of “the public good” and replacing it with “individual responsibility”;
- increasing government subsidies and tax benefits for business;
- reducing government regulation of everything that could diminish profits;
- selling state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors.
“The Golden Age of Capitalism”
Then in the 1970s Milton Friedman (part of the Mont Perelin society of which Hayek was also a member) persuaded us that freedom of expression could only be achieved through free markets, privatisation and deregulation – the main pillars of neoliberalism.
Using crises created by the corporate sector or by political events as outlined in Naomi Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine”, they redrew the political consensus that had existed since the war. This process has been in continual flux up to the present day but moving ever forward to return all public property and services into the private sector – aided by politicians, political institutions “Think Tanks” and Lobbyists.
The reasons for their success have been the coordination of all the instruments of state, a corrupt media and stage-managed attacks on working people’s support systems.
This document drawn up by Nicholas Ridley in 1977 shows the kind of planning the Tories drew up long before trade unions ever dreamt of such attacks.
The key proposals are in the confidential annex, showing how they break the power of the unions in order to privatise the nationalised industries.
Following this and the advent of the Thatcher era, the Labour Party had been either infiltrated or through our universities – MPs began to accept greater degrees of private intervention and took neoliberal doctrines as read into the future.
Whilst outwardly objecting to the harsh nature of Thatcherism as it was then known, more and more Labour politicians have become wedded to it. Even today over 100 Labour MPs are still committed neoliberals although would never admit it.
Margaret Thatcher and her chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe were behind a politically toxic plan in 1982 to dismantle the welfare state, Margaret Thatcher’s secret 1982 cabinet papers “the longer term options” released in 2012 are reported to have caused consternation amongst her colleagues and she later disowned them.
Mervyn Hyde adds, “The actual archive link can be found here, noting that it is viewed through archive viewer, so you have to click on where it says Image viewer” – but as yet the writer has failed to see them.
Until now this has been the general trajectory, in essence neoliberal politicians of all colours have collaborated to achieve the same ends, a transfer of power and wealth to the corporate sector.
From here on, what do we have to recognise in order to bring about change that will irrevocably transfer that power back into the hands of the many?
The last election could be described as a text book analogy revealing how, over the last three years, established sources combined to defeat the one and only enemy they have – socialism. Using a fabricated crisis and the perfect divisive outcome of the referendum, they were able to manipulate just enough people and confuse the rest, whilst weakening support for the Labour Party from within. The elements brought to bear to achieve this were: racism, ignorance, and apathy, aided by a complicit media that feeds prejudice and hate as well as confusing information.
Neoliberal doctrine has successfully divided the nation into fragmented parts, creating an illusion that this is how life really is. People have over the last forty years grown to accept the conditions two-thirds of us now see as normal – roughly one-third being dedicated to opposing the illusion.
For this minority ever to break out of the cordon set up by the establishment, they must recognise that those within our movement have to be challenged, as well as those outside it. That means challenging these orthodoxies:
- we can’t afford our public services,
- private enterprise is efficient and will increase the well-being of people,
- competition is no longer relevant,
- deregulation brought about the financial crash
- and the myth that we need rich people and financiers to provide us with wealth to sustain our life style
Apart from the media and its influence we also have to recognise that a lot of people seem not to care about anything except their own interests and it will require substantial efforts to break them out of their mould. When told that the NHS is being dismantled, their eyes glaze over – some would even say ‘oh well it needs changing anyway’ without the slightest knowledge of what they were talking about. Hyde calls this a form of blind faith that either they won’t suffer from these changes or they just won’t happen and things will go on as they have done; he points out that the reality is that the agenda will roll on and possibly over them.
The way to break out of this from his point of view is to challenge power at its source, be that the media or government and change the way members of the party think essentially through educating them.
Rebuild our manufacturing base via public investment, which would make our economy much more stable
Again through general ignorance lots of good people in the Labour party are oblivious to Britain’s real economic position. Some have socialist beliefs on how they can transform our well-being, but they still don’t understand that Britain’s position is unique in Europe, due to the fact we have our own currency and as such can spend directly into our economy, without the need to raise taxation, which would be used as a regulator of the economy.
What this also means is that we do not have to rely on trade to raise income, since Margaret Thatcher dismantled our manufacturing base we are a net importer of other countries finished goods, we could therefore rebuild it via public investment, which would make our economy much more stable and even export some of what we produced. Doing nothing as we are is financially unstable (Ed: also socially damaging).
This video of Professor Costas Lapavitsas (above, SOAS) breaks the EU illusion held by lots of Labour supporters, by describing in detail why getting out of Europe is essential. But after seeing the video readers may also find that we are not likely to get a genuine settlement no matter how hard we try.
Fundamentally the countries in Europe (Eurozone) can only spend into their economies by raising Euros through trade, this causes huge disparity among EU members especially those in the south, and the only real winner in this is Germany with its massive manufacturing base. This creates such an imbalance of trade and power that it can’t theoretically survive unless changes are made, like becoming a federation of states subsidised by the European Central bank, which breaks all the neoliberal trade rules they have put in place. This graph clearly describes the fundamental imbalance that currently exists:
Hyde sees a need to challenge the perception of Labour Party members that somehow Europe is some sort of economic Utopia that will defend our interests and feels that due to the problems facing Europe, sooner or later the whole pack of cards will fall in.
In addition to the economic problems facing Europe fascism is on the rise. Germany is still the richest country in Europe with massive trade surpluses, yet it has consistently produced right of centre governments and coalitions. As in England the left suffered defeats even though wages and living standards were falling under right wing regimes – due of course as here to the perception that the neo-liberal centrist politicians were no better than their counterpart conservatives. Since the war the predominant party coalitions have been centre right. So Hyde feels it would be better to concentrate on attacking the establishment and describing how Britain, with its unique position, can effect change more rapidly than any other.
Within our ranks we have neoliberal MPs dedicated to undermining any socialist advances
“When Blair first took office as prime minister, I attended one of his members’ forums in Reading, and after he gave his speech, a member asked the question, “where was the socialism in his speech” and Blair replied, “socialism is dead”. Judging from some of his old front benchers and their comments over the years I have no doubt they hold the same views and won’t ever change. the Lisa Nandys of this world etc. Our messages have been stifled and diversions such as anti-semitism have been created and not adequately rebuffed; hence we now need a voice strong enough to call out the lies and deceit in the media.
“This is not a full explanation of the need to change perceptions about our economy and relationship with Europe, there are a number of academics that highlight just how bad Europe is and how progressive Britain could become with the right government in place, but trying to change Europe from within as explained by Costas is virtually impossible.
“Changing those perceptions and ridding the Labour Party of those who actively work against us is the priority. Identifying LibDems, New Labour, and the Tories as being the same is essential to growing support, which they are, although they would claim they are not as extreme as Johnson etc., the reality though is no different; they all have the same objectives, just faster or slower time- tables – in fact if you listen to them they all use the same language, which is the big give-away.
“We lost the last election for many reasons, some of which I have outlined here, Jeremy’s only fault as Ian Lavery said, was that he wouldn’t join Johnson in the gutter. Sadly our unsophisticated electorate didn’t comprehend his magnanimity and – if we are to cut through – we need to speak the language they understand, without of course getting in the gutter to do it”.
The future for the planet is dire, with business-as-usual Neros fiddling on either side of the Atlantic
Dec 16-Jan 1st – two Gloucestershire correspondents reflect on the election results
Mervyn Hyde quietly predicted two things to himself after the Conservative victory on December 12 and his depressing predictions were confirmed. He has seen:
- gloating triumphalism on the political right
- the re-emergence of long rejected, nasty right-wing policies, like capital punishment and blood sports,
- and the political right using the election result to claim that socialism is dead and buried, perpetuating a rabid neo-liberalism.
He reminds us that the opinion polls showed – when simply presented with the policies with no party label attached to them – Labour’s policies were very popular. And in the popular vote, yn’s Labour won more votes in 2019 than Miliband’s Labour achieved in 2015.
But despite these facts, commentariat propaganda proclaimed that Labour’s policies had been “firmly rejected” and that they had “the worst election defeat since 1935” – a “disaster”.
Hyde’s verdict: “Wrong, wrong and wrong”
The election result actually showed Remain and 2nd-referendum parties winning more votes than Leave parties – with the Tories only winning an overall majority because of our undemocratic voting system. For well over a year now, opinion polls have been confirming that we are now a Remain country by a comfortable majority – which is why Brexiteers were terrified of having another referendum. His conclusion:
“Our antiquated voting system has to go. The election result actually showed Remain and 2nd-referendum parties winning more votes than Leave parties – with the Tories only winning an overall majority because of our undemocratic voting system . . . However I don’t believe that a form of PR would change the situation politically: the media has a massive influence and affects the outcome, whether under a PR or first-pass-the-post voting system”.
Richard House notes that the establishment commentariat is already hard at work creating a false narrative that the result is a rejection of socialism and Corbynism, rather a triumph for the brilliantly deployed self-preservation instincts of the ruling class and their control and manipulation of vast swathes of the population’s access to information.
Its carefully deployed narrative about Labour’s alleged “biggest defeat since 1935” has rapidly become a taken-for-granted “truth,” even in some Labour circles. But it’s a narrative hopelessly caught up in a first-past-the-post ideology — conveniently ignoring the fact that Jeremy Corbyn won more votes in 2019 than did Ed Miliband in 2015. Like Mervyn Hyde, House advocates a fair, proportional voting system, under which a Corbyn-led government would probably have been elected — albeit, perhaps, one held together by uneasy alliances.
The narrative was at best hopelessly simplistic, and at worst mischievous or just plain wrong. In reality, he continues, the election was lost through a highly complex toxic cocktail which included:
- the Brexit wild card,
- an unforgivingly undemocratic first-past-the-post voting system
- and an unprecedentedly vicious Establishment assault on Mr Corbyn’s Labour.
A relentless, ethics-free Tory machine awash with corporate money, played its populist hand well enough to get over the line using the fortune in their war chest, donated by the rich and the powerful. One arm of the propaganda assault was the Tories’ carefully targeted cold-calling of swing voters. Richard knows voters, for example, who were repeatedly rung up in the campaign and told that if they voted Labour, the country would have a communist government.
He fears that – because lies, deceit and unadulterated propaganda were imported into our electoral system to an unprecedented extent – democracy may well never recover and comments: “The relentless attacks on Jeremy Corbyn constituted the most vile character assassination campaign on anyone in British political history. Goebbels would have loved it”.
But, he adds, Labour made at least three major errors in this campaign
- They didn’t wage a sustained exposure of the establishment media’s propaganda assault on them.
- Labour spokespersons and MPs didn’t receive training on how to spot and deconstruct bias and embedded and concealed establishment narratives in media interviews, then “out” them in live interviews on the media (as Tony Benn famously and brilliantly used to do).
- Labour didn’t include a commitment to a fair voting system in its manifesto. “old-politics” tribalism prevails in the party’s leadership, which seems to prefer a majority Tory government to introducing a fair voting system though that might mean we’d have to sacrifice the chance of ever again having a majority Labour government.
The ritual condemnation of Labour’s leadership by Labour’s centre-right – in its carefully choreographed attempt to drag the party back to being the capitalism-friendly party of old – and the far-right’s appalling, power-at-any-price behaviour, will generate a race to the ethical bottom. Once the “ethically disgraceful behaviour” genie is out of the bottle, the winner will be the party who tells the most effective lies, and who cheats more successfully.
And the wealthy establishment, corporations, right-wing tabloids, and four-fifths of the press owned and controlled by non-dom, non-tax-paying billionaires living overseas, will do anything and everything in order to destroy the possibility of a genuinely left-progressive political party being elected. Richard House ends:
“A demonstrably fair voting system has to be part of the package we put together for attacking neo-liberalism. The times we’re in couldn’t be more grave or dangerous: the future for the planet is now truly dire, with two business-as-usual Neros fiddling on either side of the Atlantic”.