Sunday, 31 January 2021

A New Leadership? - Part 9 of 11

The lobby of the DHA was well attended. At the time, I was still a Stoke City Councillor, and the local media covered the DHA meeting, which was open to the public, and also covered our lobby of it, at which I made a speech setting out the opposition to cuts and hospital closures. We produced another leaflet for the lobby, which had been produced using material in Socialist Organiser, for use by local groups in such activities. 

Here, is where the welfare state comes to be used as a means of disciplining class fighters. Between 1981 and 1985, I worked as a part-time, temporary lecturer. In the period after I qualified as a teacher in 1981, it was a very difficult time. Unemployment was soaring generally, eventually reaching around 6 million in real figures, and more than 3 million on official figures. The Labour controlled Staffordshire County Council had begun closing schools, and slashing teachers jobs. Bob Cant, the MP for Stoke Central was also a County Councillor, and Chair of the Education Committee. They used excuses about falling school rolls as a justification for closing schools, but the truth was that this was simply an exercise in which compliant Labour Councils once more acted as managers of the system, complying passively with Tory instructions for cuts and closures. They could, for example, have taken falling school rolls as an opportunity to reduce grossly inflated class sizes, to reduce the disparity with those in private schools. 

With thousands of teachers being laid off, it was not the best time to be starting to look for work teaching. On the other side of the coin, the government, to hide some of the effects of soaring youth unemployment, introduced its Youth Opportunities Programme (YOP), and later Youth Training Scheme (YTS), which also had an educational component, requiring the participants to undertake college based training. That opened up lots of the kind of part-time, temporary lecturing posts that I did in the following period. The problem was that, although these posts had very good hourly rates, to compensate for no tenure, and no sickness or holiday pay, they were extremely precarious. There would be a reasonable amount of work at the start of the academic year, when all these courses started, but by Christmas, when many had dropped out, the hours were cut substantially, by Spring, you might have only a couple of hours a week of work. Moreover, from one year to another, you did not know whether you might find any work or not. 

Fortunately, at the start of all this, it was possible to sign on the dole for those days of the week when you had no work, provided it amounted to at least three days. Later, the government changed this, so that, even if you worked just 2 hours per week, and it was the same 2 hours, this was taken to be a regular contract of employment, so that you could not sign on at all. It was necessary, every time you signed on, to provide the dole with the details of what work you had done, which I made sure I did scrupulously. During this period, I was also involved in producing an unemployed newsletter, called Dole Mirror, which was produced in the newly opened Unemployed Workers Centre in Hanley, sponsored by the North Staffs Trades Council. 

When I became a City Councillor, it was also required to provide the dole with details of what official council meetings you had attended. Again I did this scrupulously. On going to sign on, shortly after the lobby of the DHA, I was called into a back room, and told to sit down, and that I was under official caution for the statements I provided to them. I was asked if I had attended the meeting of the DHA. I said that I had. Attendance at this meeting was not listed in your notification of meetings they replied. Do you have any explanation as to why you did not list this meeting, they asked. “Yes”, I responded, “it was a meeting that was open to the public, and I attended it as a member of the public, not as a Councillor.” They looked somewhat downcast, and with that, the interview came to an end, without them offering any kind of apology. 

The implication, here, was clear that the representatives of the state were looking for grounds with which to use the welfare state as a means of disciplining class fighters, as resistance to the cuts and attacks on workers intensified. It was an equivalent of the witch-huts against, and sacking of, militants in industries across the country, such as at BL. If, it had been an official council meeting, then I would have listed it, as I had done scrupulously with every other, and if I had not, it would have been purely an oversight, an error. Yet, had they had any grounds for their interview, I have no doubt that I would have been charged with Benefit Fraud. But, the only reason I was needing to sign on, in the first place, was because of the mass unemployment that capitalism had created, and that, in the case of teaching, Labour Councils themselves were contributing to, by placidly implementing those Tory cuts. Being paid between £20-£25 an hour for such teaching, I would have been highly delighted to have had a full week's work, and to have foregone £20-£30 of dole money! 

This is the way the welfare state operates in general. It atomises people, which was one reason we set about creating a collective for the unemployed, via Dole Mirror, the UWC, and attempts to create unemployed sections of trades unions. But, the welfare state, is the same kind of paternalistic state that existed under feudalism, and which breeds dependency upon it, turning those reduced to such dependency to the same kinds of conditions of serfs. It might also be worth noting that one of the more pernicious, senior members of the soft left, at the time, also sat on one of the DHSS Benefits Appeals Panels.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 2 - Part 11

For Marx, the class struggle is not about individuals, who can be mechanically placed in this box or that box, but a continual struggle between the boxes themselves, the personnel within each box being relatively fixed, in aggregate, at any one time, but is itself subject to flux. To understand the class struggle, we do not need to be able to say this individual is a proletarian and this individual is a capitalist, because, for one thing, these definitions are never absolute as phenomenal forms. It is only necessary to be able to say there exists, say, capital, and those that own capital, in aggregate, come into an antagonistic relation with those, on aggregate, who do not own capital, and who must perform wage labour. It is then only necessary to recognise that, in society, there is an aggregate mass of people who represent this condition to one degree of purity or another, of owning capital, and only owning capital, i.e., as Marx puts it in The Grundrisse capital is not labour. Similarly, it is only necessary to know that there is an aggregate mass of people who represent this condition of not owning capital, again to varying degrees of purity. 

If it were ever the case that these aggregate masses, in these different boxes, were 100% pure personifications of a given form of property, then social science would have an easier task in identifying not just how these aggregate social masses would act, but of how each individual would act. Forms of property are material conditions that are objectively determined. The social classes, as aggregates, that arise on the basis of these forms of property, are also, thereby, objectively determined, in so far as they represent a 100% pure manifestation of those forms of property, but they never are 100% pure, because the individuals that comprise these aggregate masses are never themselves 100% pure representatives of one form of property exclusively. We can say, therefore, that this box, or aggregate mass will tend to act in this way, but we can never say that this individual will act, or tend to act, in this way or another. For that, individual psychological analysis is required. The more homogeneous each box, i.e. the more the individuals comprising each box actually do only own their labour-power, or capital, the more each box will tend to act in the way that box would be expected to act, as determined by the objective interests of that particular form of property. 

That is why, of course, Lenin was right to note that, in terms of identifying the way forward, it was the industrial proletariat, and not the peasantry, that had to be looked to. It was the industrial proletariat that was most clearly the representative of “not capital” that was most clearly divorced from any ownership of capital, compared to, for example, the small peasants and handicraft producers, who, whilst depending upon their labour-power, also owned means of production, and small scale capital. 

But, even where the boxes are more or less homogeneous, in terms of the individuals relationship to different forms of property, they may be extremely heterogeneous in terms of those other social groups, and the individuals association with them. Those other social groups tend to divide society vertically, whereas social class and status divides it horizontally. For example, society is divided into people who are men and women, in each of the social classes. This creates a series of cross-cutting cleavages, forming the kind of matrix that Engels describes in his Letter to Bloch, so that the division of society along purely class lines is never absolute. Indeed, in societies where social classes are far from being homogeneous, for example where the peasant producer, and petty-bourgeois may be preponderant, it may well be that these vertical cleavages play the most significant role. The role of religious division, in the Middle-East, or in Northern Ireland, is an obvious example. 

The more developed the mode of production, the sharper the class antagonism becomes, and so the less importance the vertical cleavages exert. Indeed, the expression of the vertical cleavages and their resolution often, then, becomes inseparable from the resolution of the class struggle itself. The granting of privileges to a particular religious or other group is often related to economic development. For example, Protestant workers in Northern Ireland, did not require huge privileges to keep them separated from Catholic workers, thereby frustrating any joint class struggle. Male workers, in the past, did not require huge privileges over women workers to keep them divided etc. Economic development, in Ireland, has largely undermined the Protestant Ascendancy, and the privileges that went with it. The demand for labour, in the post-war period, drew in large numbers of women workers, who, over the years, have gained in strength, so as to be able to challenge the subordinate position they faced relative to men in society, even though that struggle is not yet won. 

These vertical divisions may be consistent with previous modes of production, and capital itself may use them opportunistically, in the short-term, to its advantage, but, overall, they are detrimental to capital accumulation. When capital needs additional labour, so as to extend the social working-day, and, thereby, increase absolute surplus value, it does not want to be impeded in that by sexist male workers opposing the employment of women, nor does it want to be impeded in employing immigrant workers by restrictions on free movement, by racist workers demanding immigration controls, or demands like “British Jobs for British Workers”. It may, opportunistically, seek to use such divisions by paying lower wages to women or foreign workers, who find themselves in a weaker position, but it is usually the plethora of small capitalists for whom these kinds of penny-pinching means of obtaining profits are significant, not the dominant large-scale capitals. 

If we look at the increasing role of the British-Indian bourgeoisie in the Tory Party, it is not at all difficult to ascertain why they supported Brexit. It is not to stop immigration, but to stop EU immigration, the better to replace it with large-scale immigration of cheap labour from the Indian sub-Continent, labour required by that British-Indian bourgeoisie of small business owners, labour that will not have the protections of immigrant EU workers. 

But, also, if we look at those countries that sought to industrialise rapidly, where they have faced these kinds of vertical cleavages, they have also invariably had to resort to some form of Bonapartist regime, which acts to contain, usually brutally, these cleavages, in order that the process of capital accumulation can proceed. Indeed, as Marx identifies, that is effectively what British colonialism did in India. In societies riven with these vertical cleavages, it is hard for capital accumulation and economic development to proceed, but without the capital accumulation and economic development it is difficult for the horizontal cleavages, along class and status lines. to become the dominant and determining factor. Much as Marxists abhor the brutality of colonialism, and of the role of the Bonapartists, therefore, they also recognise that they often play a progressive historical role, in breaking this impasse.

Northern Soul Classics - Do The Whip - The Gravities

 Instrumental of the Bobby Newton stormer.

Friday, 29 January 2021

Friday Night Disco - I Haven't Stopped Dancing Yet - Gonzales


A New Leadership? - Part 8 of 11

The other lesson to be learned from the 1980's, as I also set out in my response to Paul Mason, some months ago, is the unreliable, spineless, and treacherous nature of the soft left. The lack of numbers of the Left itself means that it is forced to make tactical alliances with the soft Left against the Right, but, as I set out in my response to Paul, such tactical alliances can never be on the basis of the Left itself reducing its programme to that of the soft Left, or failing to criticise, and elaborate the true nature of the politics of that soft left. 

I have set out some of the history of the betrayal of that soft Left in Stoke, over the issue of fighting rent rises, and spending cuts and hospital cuts and closures, at the time. I have also described how they used their control of NSLB to provide themselves with left cover for their acts of betrayal. But, it was not just a matter of even just utilising their numbers to achieve this, but also the usual resort to bureaucratic and undemocratic manoeuvres. The issue came to a head over hospital cuts and closures. The events also show how the welfare state itself can be used as a means of attacking class fighters. 

Across the country, hospitals were facing cuts and closures. In a number of places, hospitals threatened with closure were occupied by their workers. Everywhere, members of Socialist Organiser, as well as the National Labour Briefing, and other revolutionary groups supported these actions. But, in Stoke, the soft left, within the Briefing group, refused to back such action. For them, the local Briefing was to be nothing more than an informational magazine. Its response was merely to present, on its front cover, an interview with Michael Meacher, setting out “A Labour Programme for Health”. The problem was that, at this time, in April 1984, Labour was a long way from being in government, to be able to implement any such programme, and such imaginary programmes of what Labour might do, several years into the future, offered no answers for the actual health workers or patients suffering in the here and now from the Tory attacks. 

Socialist Organiser
supporters in Stoke, responded to the failure of the now soft left controlled NSLB to engage in the fight, by taking up the cudgels on behalf of health workers ourselves, with whatever resources we could muster. This illustrates the point that the Left can never subordinate its own programme and actions simply to that of the soft left, purely in order to maintain what can only ever be a short-term tactical alliance. 

We produced our own leaflet, which was distributed to health workers, and across the local labour movement. It said, 
  • Thousands of doctors, nurses, and other health workers on the dole, whilst waiting lists grow, and patients suffer 
  • Geriatric hospitals like Westcliffe closed when there are more old people than ever. Hospitals that need building and repairing whilst thousands of building workers rot on the dole 
  • Massive profits for the drug companies, and private medicine whilst the NHS is starved of funds 
  • Billions spent on weapons of war whilst people die because there are not enough kidney machines. 
  • This is the waste of Tory Britain. This is the logic of the capitalist system based on production for profit rather than production for need. There is an alternative. 
And, it went on, 

“All over the country health workers, patients and supporters have been fighting the Tory cuts. Experience shows that the only way of protecting patients is to occupy threatened hospitals. As long as patients are being cared for in the hospital the Health Authority has to pay the staff wages by law. 

The proposals of Kinnock and the labour leadership of trying to convince the Tories and their henchmen on the Health Authority is whistling in the wind.” 

The leaflet invited people to join a lobby of the DHA that Socialist Organiser had organised for 9th January 1984. It also noted, 

“Socialist Organiser is campaigning in the local Labour Party for it to adopt a serious fight against the NHS cuts. Join the Labour Party and help make them do it.”

Thursday, 28 January 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 2 - Part 10

Lenin returns to Struve's exposition, which, having disposed of the Narodnik arguments about the role of the individual in history, continues to examine the question of the social group, and, thereby, the question of class struggle

“Mr. Struve is absolutely right when he says that the theory of the class struggle crowns, so to speak, the general endeavour of sociology to reduce “the elements of individuality to social sources.” Furthermore, the theory of the class struggle for the first time pursues this endeavour so completely and consistently as to raise sociology to the level of a science. This was achieved by the materialist definition of the concept “group.”” (p 410) 

The term group is, however, indefinite and arbitrary. There are all sort of groups – religious, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, political, juridical and so on. 

“There is no firm token by which particular “groups” in each of these spheres can be distinguished. The theory of the class struggle, however, represents a tremendous acquisition for social science for the very reason that it lays down the methods by which the individual can be reduced to the social with the utmost precision and definiteness.” (p 410) 

In this, however, Lenin is mistaken. There are fairly clear material definitions, for example, of what your ethnicity is, though, even here, people have parents of different ethnicity. There are clear material definitions of sex if not of gender. Moreover, people may be more closely attached to, and aligned with their sexual orientation, religious persuasion, and so on than they are with any conscious identification with class. And, clearly, Lenin's claim in relation to class itself is not true. 

Much of his preceding analysis has been about the peasant who continues to farm their own bit of land, or use their own small means of production, but who also works as a wage labourer. As a wage labourer, who also owns the small piece of land that they then rent out, are they a proletarian, or also a rentier, interested in high rents? The same might be said, today, of the worker who buys houses and rents them out as a buy to let landlord. In Capital III, and in Theories of Surplus Value, Marx examines the capitalist who also owns land, and provides the money-capital required for their business. In that case, Marx says, they embody in their own person three different classes of property – landed property, money-lending capital, and industrial capital. 

Lenin seems to have fallen into the trap that Marx himself was trying hard to avoid – that of becoming a “box person”, whereby, in accordance with the traditions of bourgeois science, and syllogistic logic, you start with the individual and then assign them to their appropriate class box. But, that simply follows bourgeois ideology in putting the individual at the centre of the universe, and working outwards from there. By contrast, for Marx, the individual is nothing more than the personification of these different forms of property, and their antagonistic interests. They are simply actors on a stage, performing the roles that these different forms of property assign to them. What role they play, at any point in time, depends upon which form of property is dominant in determining their ideas. As Engels puts it, in his Letter to Bloch

“Secondly, history is so made that the end-result always arises out of the conflict of many individual wills, in which every will is itself the product of a host of special conditions of life. Consequently there exist innumerable intersecting forces, an infinite group of parallelograms of forces which give rise to one resultant product – the historical event. This again may itself be viewed as the product of a force acting as a whole without consciousness or volition. For what every individual wills separately is frustrated by what every one else wills and the general upshot is something which no one willed. And so the course of history has run along like a natural process; it also is subject essentially to the same laws of motion. But from the fact that the wills of individuals – who desire what the constitution of their body as well as external circumstances, in the last instance economic (either personal or social) impel them to desire – do not get what they wish, but fuse into an average or common resultant, from all that one has no right to conclude that they equal zero. On the contrary, every will contributes to the resultant and is in so far included within it.”

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

A New Leadership? - Part 7 of 11

The position of Starmer and Kinnock is both highlighted and contrasted in relation to Brexit. In 1983, having suffered the worst election defeat ever, in part caused by the split of the SDP, which itself was, partly, founded on divisions over Europe, Labour slowly moved away from its position of leaving Europe. It took until 1987 for that change to be effected. For Kinnock, this move was purely opportunistic. It was a move in search of more votes, in conditions where opposition to Europe was a position held by a minority of Little Englander nationalists, be they on the Left or Right. Whatever the base reasons for Kinnock's change of position, however, objectively, it was a move in a more progressive direction. 

By contrast, Starmer's collapse into Brexitism, and nationalistic reaction is not just opportunistic, it is also objectively reactionary. 

Kinnock's attacks on party members, as he got his witch-hunt under way, were sickeningly hypocritical. For example, in his well-known conference speech attacking Militant in Liverpool, he engaged in his rhetorical flourish about Council Leaders sending out redundancy notices by taxi. The reality, of course, was that this had been a tactic by the Council, in the context of its ongoing campaign against imposition of cuts. It was an ill-thought out, and ridiculous tactic that was inevitably going to be demobilising, and open the door to attack, but a tactic nevertheless. Kinnock's attack on it was not that it was an ill-thought out and ridiculous tactic, but was simply a lying, hypocritical attack on the Council itself. Kinnock's own strategy required Councils not to resist the Tory cuts, as Liverpool had been doing, but to comply with them, simply limiting themselves to being administrators of the system, which, in conditions of swingeing cuts, meant simply acting as the executioners on behalf of the Tories. Kinnock opposed redundancy notices being sent out in Liverpool, but his own strategy of compliance was seeing Labour Councils, throughout the country, sending out redundancy notices to workers on a monthly basis, as well as imposing large rent and rate increases on local working-class communities. Even more ironically, the Labour Party itself, soon after Kinnock's speech, was sending out redundancy notices to its own workers! 

But, Kinnock did at least have the honesty to undertake his witch hunt on an open political basis. He made no bones about the fact that the Militant Editorial Board, and then its MP's, and Councillors and subsequently its members were being expelled on political grounds, as he sought to make the Labour Party again safe for the ruling class. The witch-hunt against the members of other left-wing groups was conducted on this same basis, and when CLP's and branches began to oppose the witch-hunt, or even backed measures at odds with the position of Kinnock, they too began to be closed down.

In 1988, I had moved house into a neighbouring ward, in Kidsgrove. At its, selection meeting at the end of that year, they selected me to stand for the County Council, in 1989. No sooner had they done so than the Regional Office told them they had to run the selection again. They had nominally found some technicality for doing so, but the Branch Chair, my good friend and comrade, the late John Lockett, told me that the Regional Organiser had told him that if they went ahead and selected me, they would close down the Branch. Rather than allow that, I decided to withdraw my nomination. It was another 8 years, before I actually stood, and won a seat on the County Council, again with a huge vote, of around 3,500, amounting to 60% of the poll. 

But, Starmer is conducting his witch hunt of the Left not on this more honest basis that, at least, Kinnock did, but on the fraudulent basis of Anti-Semitism, and various amorphous charges of bringing the Party into disrepute. Now, once again, as with the witch hunt under Kinnock, we see even discussion of the witch-hunt, or even discussion of Anti-Semitism, or of the EHRC Report being banned, and those that do so themselves being suspended. As with the mass expulsions and branch and CLP closures under Kinnock, we see Starmer's henchmen and women, like Angela Rayner, proclaiming that they are prepared to expel thousands and thousands of members in this quest to again make the Labour Party safe for the ruling class. 

Kinnock, of course, never did take the LP rightward enough to be able to pick up all of the Tory and reactionary voters required to compensate for the progressive working-class votes it lost in its opportunistic abandonment of any kind of progressive social-democratic politics. Although, much is written about the nature of Labour's loss in 2019, it was, in fact, a better performance than Foot accomplished in 1983, and not much different to Kinnock's performance in 1987 and 1992, in terms of votes. It could be argued that Blair completed that task, by taking the party further to the Right, and so winning the 1997 election. However, the reality is that Blair won in 1997, because the country had grown tired of the Tories, of the economic chaos they had caused, the years of austerity, of de-industrialisation, of falling wages and collapse of infrastructure, particularly in the NHS. They were tired of the sleaze that infected the Tories, who were also riven with their internecine battles of Europe. That fact is illustrated by the fact that, in every election after 1997, the Labour vote, once again began to shrink, as the memory of hostility towards the Tories faded. That fall in Labour's vote after 1997 was despite the fact that from 1999, the new long wave upswing got underway, meaning the economy grew more rapidly, and Labour benefited from rising tax revenues that were used to provide more resources to Local Government, and the NHS. 

Starmer is moving in the opposite direction. In an opportunistic search for votes, he has lurched into the arms of reaction. His aim is to try to win the votes of reactionaries in the so called Red Wall Seats. But, those voters had been deserting Labour ever since 1945. Starmer will never move the party rightwards enough to win a large enough share of the votes from these reactionaries without turning it into a pale version of UKIP or the BNP, and to do so would destroy the LP, and lose it the votes of its core working-class support in the cities and larger metropolitan areas. Indeed, Starmer has already shifted Labour on to this reactionary ground to an extent that its likely to have lost a large chunk of that progressive vote, which will see no great difference between it and the Tories, and will simply sit on its hands. At the same time, Starmer's lurch into English nationalism means that the chances of Scottish independence has been enhanced. Seeing that risk, Starmer has then lurched even more into English nationalism, aligning himself once again with Johnson, in demanding that Johnson deny the Scots even the right to another independence referendum! This from the man who based much of his opposition to Corbyn for four years on a demand for a second EU referendum.

100,000 COVID Deaths?

The media was full of stories, yesterday, continuing today, that Britain has now had more than 100,000 deaths FROM COVID19.  Except, of course, its not true.  What the data shows, if you read, or listen carefully to the small print that is glossed over in those stories, is that there have been more than 100,000 deaths of people WITH Covid.  Every day, there are thousands of deaths of people who have some disease or other, but which is not the cause of their death.  So, too with COVID.  Yet, as with the reporting of COVID from the start, it is all presented so as to portray the worst possible version of the facts.  That, in itself, should provoke anyone with an enquiring mind to ask why.

What do the released figures for COVID deaths actually tell us?  The truth is, nothing particularly useful.  As Disraeli once said, "There are lies, damn lies and statistics."  Bad information is worse than no information, because it leads to people drawing false conclusions, and so taking unjustified actions.  The data on COVID deaths tells us only this - on any given day, so many people died, who within the previous 28 days had also had a positive test for COVID.  Nothing more.

If at some time in the last 28 days, person A has a positive test for COVID, and yesterday, whilst out running a marathon, they get hit by a bus, or suffer a heart attack, then their death will show up in the COVID death statistics, despite the fact that their death had absolutely nothing to do with COVID.  The data tells us only the number of people who died from whatever cause, who coincidentally also had had a positive COVID test.  It most certainly does not tell us how many people died as a result of being infected with COVID.  Now, you could be forgiven for not realising that, because the wall to wall, dawn to dusk lockdown propaganda, most certainly does not provide you with that information, required if you are to have any chance of making sense of the data.

Of course, no one is suggesting that the 100,000 people who have died WITH as opposed to FROM Covid, have all died from being hit by a bus.  There are not that many such road accidents in a year.  But, that example, simply shows the extent to which the actual COVID death data itself is meaningless.  If not from being hit by a bus, then someone might die from a heart attack, or from a long standing cancer - particularly as cancer treatments have been cut back severely, as everything has been devoted to COVID.  In fact, deaths from cancer ae a case in point, because each year, around 80,000 people, in Britain die from smoking related illnesses, and many of those deaths will be due to cancer, or related heart attacks, and so on.  If only half of those 80,000 people who actually died from cancer also contracted COVID - a high probability of which exists due to the NHS being the largest single source of COVID infections - having gone into hospital, then in reality, the number of COVID deaths would be reduced by 40,000, from the headline figure.

In fact, every year, 320,000 people come down with some serious illness, related to smoking.  If only a quarter of those also contracted COVID, and half of those died, actually from their smoking related illness, as a result of the NHS not providing treatment, or because people stayed away from hospitals out of a rational fear of the NHS infecting them with COVID, then that would be another 40,000 people who died from illnesses other than COVID, but whose deaths would appear in the COVID statistics.  Is that the case?  Who knows, because the statistics do not actually tell us, instead all of these deaths, from a wide range of causes are simply lumped together, and portrayed as COVID deaths!  Of course, even so, and after a year of all this, we are still at only a fifth of the 500,000 deaths that the team at Imperial College said could occur from COVID in Britain, just as globally, the number of COVID deaths is at around 2 million, compared to the 45 million the Imperial team forecast.

But, let's continue to investigate the UK figures.  We know that the average age of those dying allegedly FROM Covid, but which is actually only WITH Covid, is 82.  In other words, the average age of those dying is greater than that of the average life expectancy for a person in Britain.  Again, for anyone with an enquiring mind, this should set of an overture of alarm bells about the nature of the statistics.  More than half he people dying are aged over 80, the largest proportion of those over 85.  So, many of these people, just as with those suffering from terminal cancer, will be people who were dying anyway, from some other cause, be it dementia, some form of cancer, chronic heart disease, or whatever.  The fact that some of them also in the last 28 days got a positive COVID test, would have had nothing, or virtually nothing to do with their actual cause of death, particularly as a large proportion of them would have been infected with COVID after having gone into hospital, or who were eking out their last days in a care home.

In the last 6 weeks, of the people being treated for COVID in NHS hospitals, 11,000 of them were infected with the virus after they went into hospital for some other cause.  before Christmas, it was announced that 25% of those being treated for COVID in hospital, had actually been infected with it after they went into hospital for treatment of some other complaint.  That is not counting the thousands more people the NHS has infected with COVID, but who did not require treatment for it.  If the NHS is spreading COVID at that kind of rate in the supposedly sterile conditions of its hospital wards, the amount of infection at walk in centres, Out-Patients facilities, and so on must be even greater.  Then, of course, the NHS has sent thousands of people it knew had COVID back to Care Homes, when they spread the virus amongst vulnerable populations, the number it sent back with COVID, unknowingly, will be greater still.

Just looking at the fact that the average age of death of 82 should tell us that the likelihood is that a large proportion of thee deaths were from other causes, and that, at best, COVID was a contributory factor, or it may have been no factor at all.  After all, 80% of people, mostly those under 60 have virtually no symptoms from COVID, but even amongst the other 20%, not all of them die, or even have life threatening illness.  Even amongst the 20% of the population actually at risk from COVID, the percentage that die is only around 1-2%, meaning the other 18-19% don't.

So, it should be little surprise that we have seen such a sharp uptick in the number of deaths being attributed to COVID in the last few weeks, despite the fact that we have had a continuous lockdown of some sort for the last year, and a more intensive lockdown in the last few weeks.  Why?  because, at this time of year, the number of deaths from all causes rises sharply, with or without there being COVID.  The sharp rise in deaths over the last few weeks is simply evidence of the fact that the large proportion of deaths being attributed to COVID are nothing of the kind, but are the normal rise in deaths seen during the Winter.  All that is different, this year, is then those dying from chest infections, dementia, Alzheimer's, pneumonia, or from having fallen and broken a hip and so on, may also have been tested positively for COVID at some point in the last 28 days.  They may well have contracted it after going into hospital for one of these other causes.

Has no one actually wondered why we have seen such a sharp rise in deaths over the last few weeks of Winter, even compared to the peaks of deaths back in April of last year, and despite the fact that, we have a comprehensive lockdown in place, we have better medical treatments for COVID and so on.  Indeed, if all these deaths really were attributable to COVID, rather than to the wide range of causes of death of particularly older people, which occur every Winter, then it would again be an indictment of the strategy of lockdown, which failed to stop COVID throughout last year, led to the virus hanging around for longer, by preventing the development of herd immunity, led to its mutation into more virulent strains, and is again now failing to tackle the virus.

Again, we don't know how many of these deaths are caused by these other conditions rather than COVID, because the data does not tell us.  It simply lumps them all together under the label of COVID, simply on the spurious basis that at some point in the previous 28 days, the person who died had also had a positive COVID test.  So, the data is useless for analysing what is actually going on, or for being able to make any sensible policy decisions from it.  For all we know - though its obviously very unlikely - the large majority of those that died were hit by a bus, and so the policy response ought to be something to do with road safety rather than lockdowns.  A ridiculous example, of course, but one designed simply to show that you cannot make sensible policy decisions on such flawed data.  Yet, of course, the media, blazen these headlines without any kind of analysis of the reality that lies behind them.  Instead, we get the usual lockdown propaganda stories of anecdotal evidence of younger people suffering with COVID, despite the fact that all the data, even allowing for these deficiencies, shows that the proportion of young people dying or becoming seriously ill from COVID is vanishingly small.

What we are seeing is the usual seasonal spike in deaths and serious illness that happens every Winter.  The majority of those that die or suffer serious illness, during this time of the year, are the elderly and otherwise vulnerable.  Often, those groups do not die from flu, because of having annual flu jabs, but they die from all these other causes, including pneumonia that arises as a secondary factory, a a result of chest infections, having fallen over and so on.  In fact, a look at the data, again shows, far more people in the younger age groups dying from flu, currently, than from COVID, illustrating this point.  Of the older people, many will also have been infected with COVID, many of them after they went into hospital for other reasons.

Last year, the spike in COVID deaths subsided sharply in the Spring and Summer, again showing that same seasonal characteristic, a seasonal characteristic not of COVID, but of deaths and illness from other causes that is being cobbled together with COVID deaths in the statistics on a thoroughly spurious basis.  We need much better data, and much less wall to wall propaganda, and media sensationalism.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 2 - Part 9

Lenin then compares this material reality to how the Narodnik deals with it, by their subjectivist, sociological method. The Narodnik assures us that he is a realist who begins with the “feelings” of the handicraftsman that are hostile to the present system, and so draws up schemas of a better system. The Marxist, however, the Narodnik says, talks about “necessity” and "inevitability”, meaning that they are some kind of mystic or metaphysician. The Marxist responds that history is indeed made by living individuals, and in analysing why such individuals created the social relations existing in handicraft production, it was necessary to examine not individuals in the abstract, but the actual living individuals taking part in these events. Moreover, it was necessary to examine these events, and the individuals involved not on the basis of expressed or implied “feelings” but on the basis of “actions”. In other words, it is all very well to say that out of 1,000 peasants they express hostility to the existing system, and indicate their desire for some future Utopia, in which they could all continue to operate as prosperous, independent, small producers, but what do they do, rather than say? If, in fact, all of these peasant producers continue to produce commodities, and compete against each other – as they did – then the reality is that some will prosper, and some will be ruined. Some will become capitalist farmers, and some will become proletarians. And, once this situation arises, there is no reason why either group would want to pursue that old Utopia any longer. On the one hand, the capitalist farmers will want to become bigger, richer capitalist farmers. The proletarians will see that the old Utopia was a delusion, and that their real interest lies in their collective ownership of the large-scale, socialised capital that capitalism is creating. 

“And I had a reliable criterion to show that I was dealing with real, “living” individuals, with real thoughts and feelings: this criterion was that their “thoughts and feelings” had already found expression in actions and had created definite social relations. True, I never say that “history is made by living individuals” (because it seems to me that this is an empty phrase), but when I investigate actual social relations and their actual development, I am in fact examining the product of the activities of living individuals. But though you talk of “living individuals,” you actually make your starting-point not the “living individual,” with the “thoughts and feelings” actually created by his conditions of life, by the given system of relations of production, but a marionette, and stuff its head with your own “thoughts and feelings.” Naturally, such a pursuit only leads to pious dreams; life passes you by, and you pass life by.” (p 408-9) 

Lenin cites Mikhailovsky, as quoted by Struve, where he says that, as time passed, the possibility of an alternative path continually shrinks. However, what shrinks, Lenin says, is not the possibility of this alternative path that never existed, but the illusion that such an alternative path existed in the first place.

“And, a good thing too”. (Note *, p 409) 

But, that is not all, Lenin says, because its also then necessary to look at what ideas the Narodnik stuffs into the head of the marionette. All of the proposals put forward by the Narodniks were for petty-bourgeois solutions that could act as nothing more than palliatives, given the nature of the economy as a capitalist economy. The proposals for artels, for example, are not at all the same as the proposals for cooperatives put forward by Marx and Engels. Marx and Engels proposals were based upon already existing, large-scale industrial capital, and the existence of an industrial proletariat already imbued with a collectivist mindset, and at least nascent socialist consciousness. Consequently, their proposals were for the development of such coops on the same scale as, and in competition with large-scale capital. As Engels says, in his Letter to Bebel

“... as demanded by the Paris Commune, the workers should operate the factories shut down by the factory-owners on a cooperative basis. That is the great difference. And Marx and I never doubted that in the transition to the full communist economy we will have to use the cooperative system as an intermediate stage on a large scale. It must only be so organised that society, initially the state, retains the ownership of the means of production so that the private interests of the cooperative vis-a-vis society as a whole cannot establish themselves.” 

(Engels – Letter to Bebel, 20th January, 1886) 

Moreover, Marx and Engels' proposals were to combine all of these cooperatives in a huge federation. Writing on behalf of the First International, Ernest Jones wrote to the Conference of Cooperators, 

“Then what is the only salutary basis for co-operative industry? A NATIONAL one. All co-operation should be founded, not on isolated efforts, absorbing, if successful, vast riches to themselves, but on a national union which should distribute the national wealth. To make these associations secure and beneficial, you must make it their interest to assist each other, instead of competing with each other—you must give them UNITY OF ACTION, AND IDENTITY OF INTEREST. 

To effect this, every local association should be the branch of a national one, and all profits, beyond a certain amount, should be paid into a national fund, for the purpose of opening fresh branches, and enabling the poorest to obtain land, establish stores, and otherwise apply their labour power, not only to their own advantage, but to that of the general body. 

This is the vital point: are the profits to accumulate in the hands of isolated clubs, or are they to be devoted to the elevation of the entire people? Is the wealth to gather around local centres, or is it to be diffused by a distributive agency?” 

Ernest Jones Letters 

And, Marx's proposal was also to use credit, but not the kind of use of credit the Narodniks proposed. The Narodniks proposals for artels amounted to little more than the handicraft producers coming together on their existing basis of production, and using small scale credit to finance their operations, and improvement of their equipment. For Marx, the cooperative was the equivalent of the large joint stock company, a business bringing together hundreds of associated producers, using large-scale modern machinery, and the credit he envisages was the large-scale credit that was already being mobilised via the banks and stock exchanges to finance all of the joint stock companies. As he sets out in Capital III, Chapter 27, 

“Without the factory system arising out of the capitalist mode of production there could have been no co-operative factories. Nor could these have developed without the credit system arising out of the same mode of production. The credit system is not only the principal basis for the gradual transformation of capitalist private enterprises into capitalist stock companies, but equally offers the means for the gradual extension of co-operative enterprises on a more or less national scale. The capitalist stock companies, as much as the co-operative factories, should be considered as transitional forms from the capitalist mode of production to the associated one, with the only distinction that the antagonism is resolved negatively in the one and positively in the other.” 

Finally, Marx recognised that even with all of this, changing the underlying social relations, the bourgeoisie would seek to frustrate it, if it threatened their power, and so it had to be combined with a struggle for political power by the workers, via the creation of a revolutionary Workers Party.

Monday, 25 January 2021

A New Leadership? - Part 6 of 11

As an example, of the difference between socialists and the soft left, I was told that, following my address to Burslem Central, at the selection meeting, Jean Edwards had commented that it had ended my “political career”. This is the way these soft lefts view politics, not as an element of class struggle, but simply as a career! In the years that followed, all of these soft lefts, almost without exception, moved further and further to the right, as they found themselves being pulled along a ratchet to try to accommodate, ever more right-wing views, simply to try to win votes. Like Orwell's description of the pigs sitting around the table, at the end of Animal Farm, they had become indistinguishable from those they initially opposed. 

And, that rightward drift was not confined just to the soft left Councillors, but was manifest in the broader soft left too. This was a period of constant battles over cuts, and so on, so that there was always an issue over which principles were being tested. One crucial area was in relation to hospital cuts and closures. Around the country, hospital workers began occupying threatened hospitals. The National Labour Briefing Network supported these occupations, as did all the revolutionary groups. When the issue arose in Stoke, the Left put motions to a meeting of the local Briefing group, in line with this national stance. The soft left voted down all of the proposals for an intervention into local hospital campaigns. It was clear that the North Staffs Labour Briefing group had nothing in common with the national network. 

In a short piece I wrote for the National Labour Briefing Supplement, in December 1984, I noted that at its first meeting, when the issue arose in the context of the witch-hunt, the local group had voted to register in the Labour Party's register of unaffiliated organisations. “Indeed, in the last but one edition of NSLB, there was an article by arch witch-hunter John Golding!” NSLB was disaffiliated from the national network, and a new local group consisting of those who had been distributing the National Supplement was established in its place. But, already, the tide had turned, and the betrayal of the soft left had played no small part in it. By early 1985, it was clear that the failure of Kinnock's Labour Party, and of the TUC to mobilise in defence of the miners, and their outright opposition to the struggles of Labour Councils, which could have been linked to the strike, was gifting victory to Thatcher in the decisive industrial struggle of the period. 

There are direct parallels with Starmer today. In many ways, Starmer is worse than Kinnock. Both have become Leader following a heavy electoral defeat. But, Kinnock was, from the start, a reformist, a parliamentarian, whose focus never extended beyond the need to win votes. Starmer is a former Trotskyist. In reality, many of those that claim to be Marxists have little more than a passing acquaintance with the actual theory of Marxism, and the writings of Marx and other classical Marxists. Most are people who were emotionally attracted to the ideas of Socialism, and found their way to left-wing groups, which then provided them with their “education”. That education usually consists of the particular group feeding to these members its own version of the gospel, rather than the individual members conducting their own independent, and extensive reading and education. However, even a casual acquaintance with Marxism means that Starmer must be aware of what he is doing, in a way that Kinnock never could. 

Moreover, whilst Kinnock attacked the NGA and miners for violence on picket lines, attacked the NUM for not holding a ballot prior to the strike, and also criticised Labour Councils for defying the Tories cuts by breaking the law, just as he was later to attack them for breaking the law over the Poll Tax, on none of these occasions did he actually openly support the Tories, and their anti working-class laws. Kinnock continued to oppose them, if only by the passive, and completely ineffectual parliamentary means that he insisted were the only legitimate means of resistance. By comparison, Starmer, since becoming Leader, has stood shoulder to shoulder with Boris Johnson, who is leading the most reactionary government seen in Britain in recent history. Starmer has voted with the Tories on issue after issue, be it in relation to Brexit, on the restrictions on civil liberties via lock downs, on imposing harsher, more racist immigration controls, and in protecting British war criminals. The height of that betrayal came with Starmer's backing of Johnson's reactionary Brexit deal.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 2 - Part 8

And so it is this direct experience of the real world by individuals that shapes the ideas in their heads. It is then not at all surprising that all those individuals that find themselves in one group – the labourers – have a very different view of the world from those individuals who find themselves in the other group – the capitalists. 

“And, consequently, the interests of the producer do not, in any way, lie in reconciling these contradictory elements, but, on the contrary, in developing the contradiction and in developing the consciousness of this contradiction. We see that the growth of commodity production leads to such a development of the contradiction here in Russia, too: as the market widens and production grows, merchant capital becomes industrial capital. Machine industry, by finally destroying small, isolated production (it has already been radically undermined by the buyer-up), socialises labour.” (p 407) 

So, despite all of the misery that this entails for the labourer, first as impoverished independent producer, and then as wage labourer, the Marxist looks through the misery to where it leads and how that provides the ultimate solution for the labourers' predicament. The independent producer cannot see beyond their own immediate position. They see the merchant capitalist and money-lending capitalist squeezing them on the one hand, and they see the larger capitalist producer undercutting them, and taking their markets on the other. They see descent into the ranks of the proletariat impending, a proletariat that itself is increasingly organised and begins to obtain a standard of living and social standing greater than that of the increasingly impoverished independent producer. They are neither fish nor fowl. 

So, this independent small producer looks to ways to hold back or even turn back the capitalist development. Had Lenin been writing thirty years later, he would have seen the same factors at work in rallying these same layers of small capitalists and petty-bourgeois to the ranks of the fascists. 

“The system of Plusmacherei, which in handicraft production is obscured by the apparent independence of the handicraftsman and the apparent fortuitousness of the power of the buyer-up, now becomes clear and is fully revealed. “Labour,” which even in handicraft industry participated in “life” only by presenting the surplus product to the buyers-up, is now finally “differentiated from life” of bourgeois society.” (p 407-8) 

In other words, the independent producer is exploited by the buyer up and merchant. They clearly have one foot in the camp of the proletariat, but they can''t see it, because they cling to their existence as independent producers. All such individuals cling to the hope that tomorrow conditions may be better, and, maybe, even they will grow into a larger producer. And the petty-bourgeois politician codifies and represents this outlook. It is only further capitalist development that clears this illusion out of the way, by resolving matters in driving the independent small producers from the field, that the real contradiction is revealed, and so the real interests of the producers, in contradiction to the interests of capital, becomes manifest. It is only then, when the producer is completely divorced from capital, and from the individual ownership of means of production, that the real situation is revealed. So, it is only the industrial proletariat that is faced with this reality, and it is only the industrial proletariat that can provide the way forward, but, now, not on the basis of individually owned means of production, but on the basis of the large-scale socialised capital that capitalism has itself created. That, as Marx sets out in Theories of Surplus Value, is its historic mission, to convert the scattered small-scale means of production into capital; to accumulate additional capital on a massive scale, and via concentration and centralisation, to convert it into socialised capital, thereby, abolishing capital itself as private property; it is to create a global economy and market and to create the working-class that is to take control of this socialised capital, and begin to transform it into socialised means of production, utilised to meet human needs.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

What's Hard To Understand?

If you are part of the 20% of the population at risk of dying, or being seriously ill from catching COVID19, i.e. if you are over 60, or have other underlying medical conditions, then you should not voluntarily put yourself in a position of coming into contact with the virus.  Similarly, if you don't want to have your house flooded, you should not voluntarily buy a house next to a river, or in a flood plain.  What is difficult to understand here?

If you can't be bothered to use simple common sense to avoid such problems, why on Earth would you think other people are going to bail you out for acting recklessly?  There are lots of us who are at risk from COVID, who have put ourselves out over the last year, to ensure that we do not come into contact with COVID, by isolating ourselves, not doing things we might otherwise have wanted to do, including meeting other family members.  Its up to everyone else in at risk groups to do the same, and for those unable to do that, its up to their families, communities, and ultimately the state to enable them to do so.

That includes, the NHS, whose performance, however, has been abysmal.  The NHS should really be charged with corporate manslaughter.  In the last 6 weeks, 11,000 people, being treated for COVID, caught it after having gone into hospital for treatment for other problems.  The very least anyone should be able to expect is that if they have to go into an NHS hospital for treatment, it is not going to infect them with COVID!  Yet, the NHS appears to be the biggest single source of COVID infections.  I've looked for data on the number of people infected with COVID having gone into a private hospital, and can't find any.  That is similar to the situation several years ago, when large numbers were infected with MRSA in NHS hospitals, whereas none were infected in private hospitals.

Not only is the NHS infecting thousands of people with COVID, but it is then also sending many of them to care homes, where they are then infecting thousands more people.  This is a disgrace.  Again, what is difficult to understand that hospitals need to have isolation wings or wards, to ensure that people with COVID are not being cared for alongside other people, who might be infected?  This is simple common sense isn't it, and not something that requires vast amounts of money to ensure happens?

Similarly, there are lots of us who would like to be able to have the benefits of living in a pleasant location alongside the picturesque setting of a river, and so on, but we do not do so, because we realise that the price of enjoying such an enjoyable setting is that there is a high risk of flooding.  Why should some people think that they should be able to privatise the benefit of living in a pleasant location, whilst socialising the cost of doing so?  That's like those who wanted to privatise the benefits of asset price bubbles, but who wanted to socialise the consequences of those bubbles when they burst.

A New Leadership ? - Part 5 of 11

In late 1983, it became obvious that the soft-left in Burslem Central, having been embarrassed by the fact that their strategy had failed, and their matriarch, instead, had been the one who had breached Branch policy, were going to deselect me; my hands were, in many ways untied. After Jason and myself had broken Labour Group discipline, in opposing the rent rise, we had the whip withdrawn. Several weeks went by in which they tried to have us recant, but we refused. Eventually, a form of words was drawn up, which we agreed to. It basically asked us not to be naughty boys, and to agree to say we wouldn't do it again. "I'm prepared to say I won't do it again", I made clear, just as I had previously said before being elected that I would abide by Labour Group discipline. Whether I would or not was a different matter. 

I knew that the soft left would deselect me, as they had planned all along. I knew who would be selected. Norman Rides, who was their choice, came to me before the meeting and even said that, if I asked him, he would not stand against me. I told him he should stand, and I had no hard feelings. I knew in my address to the selection meeting, I need not hold back. Here is the content of my speech, delivered on 22nd. February 1984. 

A Difficult Situation 

Comrades, we are in a very difficult situation. World capitalism is in massive crisis; unemployment is over 4 million, and likely to rise further; the bosses are intent on solving their crisis at our expense, by smashing the trades unions, and dismantling the already inadequate provisions of the welfare state. The Labour Party's reformist politics have always been inadequate to offer an alternative for the working-class. In the current situation, they are even more inadequate, if not useless. Worse still, since the election defeat, last year, and the election of Kinnock, the dominant trend in the Labour Party has been steadily rightwards. 


In the face of the bosses onslaught what has been Kinnock's response? Firstly, he attempted to water down the party's unilateralist policies at conference, then we saw him continue his support for the witch-hunt against the Left, with the expulsion of the Militant Editorial Board, and his direct intervention to get Tariq Ali expelled. Since conference, we have seen the Kinnockite NEC stitch up Wythenshawe CLP, and the witch-hunt stepped up with the expulsion of 8 Militant supporters in Blackburn, another in Gillingham, comrades being prevented from taking up or transferring membership in Birmingham Yardley, an attempt to prevent Charlie Hughes in Stoke South from renewing his membership, and a call in the same constituency for an investigation into Socialist Organiser

But, Kinnock has not just confined himself to attacking the Left in the party. During the NGA dispute, instead of organising support on the picket lines, as the Campaign Group of MP's did, Kinnock actually attacked the mass pickets for their violence. In the meantime, the soft left in the party try to ignore all this, in order to cling to their illusion about Kinnock being left-wing. All discussion in the party is closed down. We saw in Stoke the way in which the rally for Kinnock was organised along American Presidential lines, with no attempt to invite the other contenders, and no provision to question. We saw, in Burslem Central, how, when Jason wanted to present information detrimental to Kinnock, circulation of the material was bureaucratically stifled. 

Nor is it just Kinnock who has been shown to be politically bankrupt. The local government and soft left have demonstrated the same failings. 

The Local Government/Soft Left 

Yes, Livingstone and Blunkett demonstrated Kinnock's right-wing politics at the Local Government conference, when they fell out with him by calling for Local Authorities to break the law, but they, themselves, over the last five years have failed to confront the Tories. They have instead carried out the Tories' cuts, and prefer Popular Fronts with the SDP and Tories rather than mobilising the working-class. When they have the opportunity, here and now, to put their words into action, by mobilising support for Liverpool, they back down, and have even attempted to put pressure on Liverpool not to confront the Tories. Again, that trend has been reflected, here in Stoke, where, over the question of the rent increase, the soft left, both inside and outside the Labour Group failed to support the stand taken by Jason, myself, and the majority of Burslem Central, and eventually, having refused to take on the right-wing over the political issue, the same soft left sold us out when we were disciplined. That time, people hid behind the need for abiding by Group decisions, but no such excuse existed for the capitulation of the soft left at last week's Labour group meeting over the cuts in the budget. The so called left representatives of the City Party sat silent while the right-wing pushed through yet another round of attacks on the working-class. 

Revolutionaries v Soft Left 

Through all this, the only people who have defended socialist principles has been the revolutionaries; the comrades from Militant running Liverpool, and comrades, around the country, like myself, who are supporters of Socialist Organiser. As a result of sticking to our guns, whilst the soft left capitulates, we are facing de-selection. But the political lines are becoming clearer. As the soft left becomes gradually more right-wing and bureaucratic, so the revolutionary left has begun to unite through the establishment of the National Labour Briefing Network, and its links with the Campaign Group, and the Broad Lefts Organising Committee in the trades unions. 

The result is that increasingly the political division in the Party will be between the soft left and the comrades of Labour Briefing, because, at the end of the day, there is no real difference between the Tories and those in the Labour Party who are prepared to carry out their policies without a fight. 

Burslem Central has to decide which way it wants to go – either to line up with the rightward moving elements of the Party, or to stand on socialist principles for a fight to defend the working-class, here, and now, whether such a fight has the support of the Labour Group or not. It is by that standard that the politics of Burslem Central in its decision tonight will be judged. 


As mentioned in the speech, early in 1984, discussion on the next year's budget took place. It included a series of cuts in proposed spending. I obviously put forward a motion to the Branch that we should oppose these cuts. This time, the soft left had a majority to oppose the motion. At the time, the Council was also in a dispute with the unions in the City Works Department. Having failed to get support from the Branch in opposing the budget cuts, it was obvious that, this time, there was no basis for any kind of principled opposition from within the Council Chamber, and the wider Left was showing no intention of fighting. With only a few weeks to go, before the elections, I decided that the principled position was to resign as a Councillor. In my letter of resignation, which the Town Clerk had to read out in front of Full Council, in all of his full regalia and wig, I set out a series of charges against the anti-working class stance of the Labour Group, apparently accompanied with cries of “shame” from the Labour Right, as well as setting out, as an example, the Council's attacks on its own workforce, whilst declaring my complete solidarity with the City Works unions.

Northern Soul Classics - Tainted Love - Gloria Jones


Friday, 22 January 2021

Friday Night Disco - Baby Don't Change Your Mind - Gladys Knight & The Pips


The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 2 - Part 7

Lenin then gives a practical example of this in relation to the Russian handicraftsman. The Proudhonist nature of the Narodnik analysis is described by Lenin. The Narodnik, he says, describes the “bad side” in relation to the handicraft worker, who exists from a miserable level of production, and is severely exploited by the buyer-up and so on. The “good side”, however, is that they are not a wage worker. The task, therefore, is to preserve the “good side”, and discard the “bad side”. The Marxist too, in observing such a situation cannot but observe and deplore the miserable condition of the handicraft worker; indeed, in Capital I, Marx describes and deplores the condition of the British hand-loom weavers. But, Marxists are scientists not moralists. Their task is to analyse the path of social development and hasten it along, not simply describe it or moralise over it. So, in addition, the Marxist asks, 

“the question of how the industry is organised, i.e., what are the relations between the handicraftsmen in the production of the given product and why just these and no others. And he sees that this organisation is commodity production, i.e., production by separate producers, connected with one another by the market.” (p 407) 

This evaluation is itself a social process. On the one hand, it is determined objectively by the value of the particular commodity, and, for each producer, this value, its individual value, varies, because they each produce under varying conditions. The market value emerges independently of each of them as an aggregate of these individual values. On the other hand, it is determined subjectively by the amount of this supply that consumers wish to buy at this market value (it determines what of the expended labour was socially necessary labour), and interaction between these elements of demand and supply results in constant fluctuations of the market price. But, the individual producer has no control over either of these elements. The consequence is that some producers will sell their output at a market price above the individual value of their production. They will accumulate money. In contrast, other producers will sell their output at a market price below their individual value of output. At best they will accumulate less money, and for some they will need to borrow money, or acquire additional money, by also selling their labour-service to others. 

Those that acquire money, then become buyers up. They can use better access to markets and so on, to buy up the products of their neighbours, relieving them of costs of taking these products to market. They do not do so as an act of charity, but in order to make additional profit, and so they buy up this product at cheap prices. The buyer-up becomes a merchant capitalist, and when some handicraft producers fall on even harder times, the merchant becomes a productive-capitalist via the Putting Out System, providing the handicraft worker with materials and paying them only wages for the labour they provide.  The worker now no longer sells a labour-service, but sells their labour-power itself as a commodity. 

“The cause of the power of the money owner, the buyer-up, is therefore clear; it is that he alone, among the handicraftsmen who live from day to day, at most from week to week, possesses money, i.e., the product of earlier social labour, which in his hands becomes capital, an instrument for appropriating the surplus product of other handicraftsmen. Hence, the Marxist concludes, under such a system of social economy the expropriation and the exploitation of the producer are absolutely inevitable, and so are the subordination of the propertyless to the propertied and the contradiction between their interests which provides the content of the scientific conception of the class struggle.” (p 407)

Thursday, 21 January 2021

A New Leadership? - Part 4 of 11

No sooner had Kinnock taken over as Labour leader than the witch-hunt against the Left began, preparing the way for him abandoning the Miners when the strike began, in the same way he had turned against his own Labour Councils that were opposing the Tory Cuts and other attacks on Local Government. Some of this was played out, at the time in the columns of the newly formed North Staffs Labour Briefing. In the first edition of NSLB, I wrote an article on why the Left should oppose the “centre-right” Kinnock. Indeed, the true nature of Kinnock was shown by the fact that the so called “dream ticket” of Kinnock-Hattersley was supported by John Golding

My description of Kinnock as centre-right, was disputed in a letter to NSLB2 by Dick Hall. Dick was an old Stalinist. Dick was much better educated than many people realised, his university education not reflected in his job as a pottery worker, but a discussion with him was like a discussion with a bot that formed its sentences on the basis of a series of clichés and mantras, always delivered with a smile, and a glint in his extremely crossed eyes. In his letter, he objected to my description of Kinnock, accusing me of basing it on “rationalisation”. His argument rested on the fact that Kinnock was a member of the Tribune Group. The Tribune Group itself of course, for a long time, had been little more than a group of soft left careerists, which also acted as fellow travellers to a Communist Party that was moving ever more rapidly rightwards, and whose Popular Frontism had led it into unprincipled alliances with liberals, and religious leaders. 

As I pointed out in my response in NSLB 3, 

“It has long been known that the Tribune Group is full of centre-right careerists, who use it to give them a 'left' cover. That is why the Campaign Group split from it. 

More importantly, one should assess people by their actions. Kinnock's actions clearly define him as centre-right. Since his election he has failed every test of the class struggle, e.g. his statements over the NGA. 

Comrade Hall concludes by accusing me of sour grapes, and calls on me to build for a Labour Victory in 87/88. Firstly, the article was written before Kinnock was elected. Secondly, its attitude to Kinnock conforms totally with that of the Briefing Network. Thirdly, the best way to build for a Labour victory is to get rid of Kinnock and his witch-hunting policies (Tariq Ali, Militant, S. Wythenshawe, Blackburn, etc. etc.). Whilst we must all work for a Labour victory it is also necessary to point out that an uncritical vote for a Kinnock government would be a defeat for the working-class. A Kinnock government will attack the working-class, as did its predecessors. We should say – 'Vote Labour, but prepare to fight'.” 

The point made, here, about the position being consistent with that of the Briefing Network was important, because the reality was that, whatever the shortcomings of the politics of Labour Briefing, and the National Network, it was a politics of a Left that was based upon principles of class struggle, whereas, it became clear that the NSLB was simply a shell in which a timid and late maturing, local soft-left had found its own bit of “left cover”, whilst continuing to promote its own opportunist and electoralist politics. Every month, I attended the National Labour Briefing Editorial Board meetings, in Birmingham, at Digbeth Civic Hall, and it soon became clear that the positions taken by the NSLB grouping were not consistent with the platform of Briefing.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

How Will States Respond To Rapid Inflation

Nearly every economist now agrees that inflation is set to rise rapidly. The latest UK inflation data shows that it doubled in December, rising from 0.3% in November to 0.6%. As set out in previous posts, in fact, even that understates the real position, because the current index is not lockdown adjusted. It does not take into account that many of the items whose prices have fallen, or risen slightly, are heavily weighted, but cannot be currently bought, whilst those that have risen most are lightly weighted in the index, but a higher proportion of those are being bought in current conditions. The basic cause of the inflation is the same as that which has caused a hyperinflation of asset prices over the last thirty years, i.e. the printing of vast amounts of money tokens, thereby, devaluing each of those tokens. But, there is a further cause of the incipient commodity price inflation, and that is that costs have risen due to falling productivity caused by lockdowns, and secondly lockdowns have reduced supply, whilst boosting monetary demand, causing market prices to rise. 

When economies are released from lockdowns, these factors are going to cause demand to exceed supply by a significant degree, causing prices and money profits to rise sharply. With rapidly rising demand, and money profits, firms driven by competition, will seek to increase their output to capture, or at least not lose, market share. This sudden increase in output will cause further dislocations and sharp rises in prices of some inputs, because supply of them will not be able to respond, adequately, in the very short term, either. The move to online activity is going to become entrenched, as the high street's decline is enhanced. That means that the types of labour that are in demand are likely to change. As Marx sets out in Theories of Surplus Value, there can be higher unemployment alongside higher wages, or living standards for the workers that actually are in employment. A demand for more skilled workers as web designers, network administrators and so on, will cause their wages to rise, even as unskilled, particularly older workers, find themselves continuing in low value, low paid employment or unemployment. But, the general tendency will be for employment to rise, and wages to rise, giving a further stimulus to demand for consumer goods, which will cause firms to seek to expand output further. 

But, we know how states will respond to this rising inflation. They have told us, and we have seen it in the recent past. Central banks have said that, because inflation has been below their 2% target, they see no problem in it being above it for some time. In the period after 2008, the Bank of England continued to print money tokens, and to hold down its policy rates, despite inflation rising to over 5% for many months. The central bankers believe they are masters of the universe, able to determine the most important price, the price of capital, i.e. the rate of interest, simply by diktat, like some modern day King Canute. They cannot, and the laws of economics and of capital have not been abolished. Those laws, in relation to the rate of interest are simple. If the demand for money-capital rises relative to supply, then interest rates will rise, irrespective of how many money tokens central banks print, or what policy rates they dictate. 

And, when economies are released from lockdowns, the demand for money-capital will necessarily rise relative to supply. In order to accumulate capital, to increase output, firms have either to use their retained profits – meaning those profits are not thrown into the money market, so reducing the supply of money-capital – or else they must go into the money market to borrow the money-capital required, meaning that demand increases relative to supply. They can do that by taking out bank loans, or lines of credit, or by issuing additional shares, or bonds. Small businesses, are restricted to taking out bank loans, or using personal credit, such as maxing out credit cards, or re-mortgaging their houses, and so on. Either way, the demand for money-capital rises relative to the supply. 

That is particularly the case given that, over the last year, many businesses have seen their profits annihilated, because lock downs forced them to close down production or sales. They have had to draw down on their balance sheets to be able to stay in business during that period. So, these businesses now have to borrow money not only to finance expansion, as demand increases, but also to rebuild their balance sheets. Of course, the government can, and for the big companies, will do this for them, bailing them out with trillions of dollars of taxpayers money, but, in the short-term, governments too will have to finance that by additional borrowing rather than higher taxes. That is on top of the huge levels of borrowing that governments have undertaken to finance furlough schemes, and other programmes to provide revenues to people whose incomes have disappeared. So, not only inflation, but also interest rates are bound to rise sharply. 

Higher interest rates, not those dictated by central banks that will become increasingly irrelevant, but the actual rates of interest determined in the market, i.e. the rate you will have to pay if you take out a bank loan, or on your credit card, or the yield that firms have to pay on their shares, if they want to attract buyers of those shares. It will first appear in terms of bonds, whose prices will fall, as the means by which these yields rise. But, because the central banks believe they can control these yields by simply printing more money, and buying more bonds, that is what they will do. 

Last night, I watched “The Big Short” again on iPlayer. It shows just how corrupt the financial system was before the 2008 financial meltdown. It focused on the selling of mortgages, mortgage bonds, and CDO's, but the corruption and irrationality in the housing market was itself just a symptom of the same thing that existed across the entire financial sector, where the same ridiculous inflation of asset prices, of shares and bonds could be seen, based upon nothing, and only sustained as a result of central bank intervention and money printing. As they say at the end of the film, in the end, the state bailed out all of the banks and speculators that caused that crash, and they will try to do so again, now that the same irrationality, the same corruption has continued on an even larger scale after 2008, creating an even bigger, even more irrational bubble in financial and property markets. 

The model will be what happened with Greek debt, following the Eurozone Debt Crisis of 2010. Then, all of the private holders of Greek debt were allowed to escape the reality that the bonds they held were worthless, by central banks buying them up. Some of those speculators took a haircut on the price they got for their bonds, but it was much better than getting nothing for them. In fact, central banks have done that with a host of government bonds. They now hold about a third of all government bonds in circulation. 

As commodity price inflation increases sharply, and asset prices fall, the owners of fictitious capital, in particular, here, bonds, will seek to sell it, to avoid capital losses. They will seek to use the proceeds to buy real assets. In other words, they will want to buy actual factories, machines and so on, to invest in industrial capital, to be able to obtain real profits. Huge amounts of liquidity was created that inflated the asset price bubbles, and the release of that liquidity, from bursting bubbles, into the real economy, will cause asset price deflation alongside rapid commodity price inflation. But how? 

If owners of fictitious capital sell, for example bonds, as their prices are falling, the money they get for those bonds can then be used by them, and put into the real economy. They can use it to invest in real capital, or they can use it to finance consumption. Either way, this money goes to fund demand for commodities, and, thereby, as additional liquidity, leads to rising commodity price inflation. However, for them to sell these bonds, requires that someone else buys them, and so this other person then reduces their own liquidity, making the net effect zero, in terms of available liquidity. But, that is not the case, if the buyer of these bonds is the central bank. If the central bank buys the bonds, which they are likely to do, as they see a new collapse of all these financial bubbles, they can simply print more tokens to do so. So, printing money tokens creates asset price bubbles to begin with, and then the collapse of those bubbles causes more money printing to occur, now, with that additional liquidity going into the real economy, as against the last thirty years, where it just went to reflate, and further inflate the asset price bubbles. 

So, now, collapsing financial and property bubbles, will be a source of additional liquidity pumped into the real economy, thereby, exacerbating an already inflationary spiral. Central banks will not respond to rising inflation, and as asset bubbles pop, they will print more money tokens, saving many of the speculators from taking huge capital losses on their gambles. The liquidity will go into circulation, causing commodity price inflation to rise even faster. That will drive even greater rises in money profits, causing firms to seek to expand even more. Inflation will become embedded within the economy, and so too will rising interest rates. Firms that want to expand by issuing new shares or bonds, will have to price them accordingly, so as to provide a high yield to speculators. In other words, bond and share prices will fall significantly. Banks will also charge higher interest rates on loans. Speculators will not buy land or property to obtain yields that are significantly lower than those available on shares or bonds, or the profits available from simply using their money-capital themselves to start businesses, and obtain a high rate of profit. Especially as the speculative capital gains on assets of the last thirty years disappear that will be the case. So, as yields rise, land and property prices will also fall significantly. 

This effect on asset prices of rising interest rates, however, does not affect the rate of profit, or mass of profit in the same way. The process of capitalisation means that, if interest rates double, then the price of the revenue producing asset is halved. But, suppose the result of increased money profits is that the demand for money-capital doubles. Let us say that the current rate of profit is 10%. A capital of £1,000 produces £100 of profit. If the rate of interest is 1%, then the firm will pay £10 of interest out of its profits, leaving £90 of profit that can be accumulated as additional capital. Now demand for capital doubles to £2,000, as a result of the economy growing. Even if the rate of profit remains 10%, it now produces £200 of profit. Suppose that interest rates now also double to 2%, meaning that £40 of interest are due. The remaining profit still now amounts to £160, or nearly double what it was, and so, accumulation can increase, even with these higher rates of interest. 

Even in terms of the rate of profit, a doubling of the rate of interest does not halve the rate of profit of enterprise, because interest comprises only a fraction of the total profit. In the above case the rate of profit of enterprise fell from 9%, to 8% for example, despite a doubling in the rate of interest. Consequently, as rising economic activity causes interest rates to rise, and asset prices to crash, profits will continue to rise sharply, encouraging further economic growth as a result of investment in productive capacity. As asset prices crash as a result of rising interest rates, whilst profits rise, more of those that have engaged in asset price speculation, will seek to avoid further capital losses, and will seek higher yields by investing directly in productive activity. And, there is lots of higher profit areas for such investment to occur, for example in space technology, green energy technology, medical science technology and so on. 

According to the latest ONS data, between 10-15 million people in Britain, in December had had COVID19, and had immunity. In actual fact, the data for those with antibodies has always significantly understated the real number, because the vast majority of people infected are asymptomatic and never tested, whilst the current tests fail to detect low levels of antibodies, which can occur when someone acquired immunity several months ago, and the tests do not detect other forms of cell immunity, and so on. The real level of previous infection, and of immunity is probably closer to 20 million, and we also have now 4 million people that have been vaccinated, giving around 25 million people with immunity, or about 40% of the population. But, with the current levels of infection, we are likely to have more than half the population with immunity within about a month. Its thought that 60% is required to create a required level of herd immunity, which is, then, likely to occur within the next three months. This is likely to be the case in many other countries. 

By the middle of the year, therefore, we are likely to see that herd immunity has been achieved, meaning that the spread of the virus will be, at the least, heavily curtailed, and deaths and hospitalisations along with it. There will no longer be any possible foundation for continued lock downs. Experience so far suggests that we will see a strong surge of “revenge spending”, rapidly boosting aggregate demand. Profitability remains high, and profits themselves have only been squashed as a result of enforced close downs. With demand rising sharply, and vast amounts of liquidity already available, and more to come, monetary demand is going to push up inflation, and money profits, provoking yet more capital accumulation, and demand for money-capital, causing interest rates to rise, and asset prices to crash.