An education strictly limited

Introduction.

As working people want the best for their children, and they are not getting it, this article will present some insights into our present ‘educational’ system. These insights should help towards an understanding of why the education of Britain’s working-class children doesn’t live up to its billing. It will be followed up by a few examples of its implementation in the sphere of state education. Knowledge is powerful, that’s why those who presently rule British society don’t want us to have it. From birth to death, working people meet subtle and not so subtle forms of coercion, many of which are intended to get them to accept the authority and discipline of the capitalist status-quo.

This article will show how society and the economic system has an influence on education. It will give a brief history of state education in Britain and how it meets the needs of the capitalist economy. The influence of US educational methods will then be examined. We then see how this translates into practice in the classroom and how this influence is intended to curtail the working-class child’s curiosity about the world around them and lead them to accept things at face value without questioning. In addition, we’ll look at other influences, such as: how the subjects are taught; class sizes; and the attitudes of teachers to working class students. Finally, an alternative approach to education is shown.

Education and society.

Education should not be considered in isolation from the rest of society. In the 1960’s the working class was relatively strong. There was a low level of unemployment and a fairly strong trade union movement, particularly at the shop steward level. Social protest movements were on the rise in other parts of the world and on a global level colonial people were rebelling against imperialism. The US government and its underling, the UK government, were starting to realise that military intervention in these situations was often costlier and less effective than subtler, ideological approaches. It is against this background that we see grafted onto the state ‘education’ sector in Britain a number of imports from the USA. The grafts altered the form of the state ‘education’ and made it appear more open, but because it remained under the control of a ruling class hostile to working class hopes, it remained essentially the same. It was just less obvious; it camouflaged its restrictive practices.

History of state education.

It is not known generally to the public at large in Britain, that it was the introduction of state education for working-class children in Germany in the latter half of the 19th century which drove the British ruling class to set up its own system of state education for working class children. One of the main reasons that the German capitalist economy grew so much in the late 19th and early twentieth century was that it had access to an educated workforce. Driven by the fear of how German capitalist expansion could threaten their dominance, the British ruling class reluctantly decided that it, too, had to introduce state sponsored education but only of the elementary type. Starting in 1880, attendance was compulsory at these elementary schools for children aged 5 to 10, and by the 1893 it included those aged 11 to 13.

Overwhelmingly the pupils at these elementary schools were children of the working class, and as such they were fed a limited diet which fitted them only for the needs of local capitalism. From their founding, until around 1960, these schools instilled into schoolchildren the acceptance of the social hierarchy by the means of the ‘stick’ and ‘carrot’ approach to discipline. This twofold approach used to physical repression for anything that infringements of school rules, this enforced by the cane and the thrown blackboard rubber. the use of the ‘stick’ and the ‘carrot’ method

On the one hand there was the ideological, this was instilling into the pupil a misplaced pride in Empire, and on the other hand

Since the end of the World War 2 (WW2) open or overt discrimination against children of the working class has been gradually replaced by a form of discrimination that is more hidden, more covert. This subtler form of discrimination was introduced because, in general, parents after WW2 were determined that their child’s education would be better than their own.

Since the end of WW2 three different methodologies have been used in state sponsored schools for children aged eleven and over. In the first period after WW2, the methodology took the form of Grammar and Secondary schools, and, in the more backward areas, 11 to 15 County Primary schools. In the mid-1960s came the Comprehensive schools, which except for a few counties which kept Grammar and Secondary schools, were amalgamations of these schools. Lastly, and this is the period this article will concentrate on, is the period beginning 1981 to the present. This period has seen the later form of ‘Comprehensive’ and now ‘Academy education’.

Meeting the needs of the capitalist system.

From the initial ‘educational’ set-up to the form of the present one, where compulsory education lasts until the pupil/student is 16 years old, working class children have continued to face different forms of a restricted ‘education’. As the British economy has changed over time, so in each stage of its development those that are paid to control the education system have attempted to produce a populace restricted to an educational level required by this economy. In other words, the form and the content of ‘education’ undergone by the employed classes has been directly related to the level required by the employers; that is, its basis has been limited to what is “needed to be known” and no more.

Early examples of this process of this would be for the schools to turn out young men and women intended for the factories, the mines and the farm. Later examples of this process would be the turning out of young men and women for warehouse distribution and fast food outlets, etc. In all periods though, a tiny fraction of students is skimmed off, given a higher, but still limited form of education, with the intention of inculcating them with petty bourgeois and bourgeois prejudices. These are the few who have somehow managed to pass through all the set hoops and over the hurdles which have managed to handicap the rest.

The US influence.

Although, it occurred earlier on a smaller scale, from the beginning of the 1980s to the present day, there has been continual flow of educational ‘academics’ travelling between Britain and the USA, but only a one-way flow of ideas and ‘initiatives’, that from the USA. The outcome of this one-way traffic has been that the schools in the secondary/comprehensive sector and now the ‘academies’ financed by the state have been copying an American system of ‘education.’ See Appendix – ‘Education via the USA and the National Curriculum’.

How the system destroys curiosity.

Education that leads to knowledge outside the boundaries set by British capitalism is regarded as dangerous by those that oversee the education of the mass of the population. So, in order for those who are subject to this system of ‘education’ not to feel resentful about the lack of access to a more fully rounded and accessible education, those that oversee this limited form of ‘education’ have turned the whole matter on its head. Turning the matter on its head means making the pupil/student feel it is their responsibility, and theirs alone, for the grades they get from an ‘educational’ programme which is actually designed for most to fail. As far as those that oversee ‘education’ here are concerned, we live in a hierarchical society, and so it must remain.

The key period in which the pupils/students search for knowledge is sabotaged by the ‘educational’ system is in the age group 11 to 16. In this age group, the pupil/student and their parents are made to feel that the school system provides many choices, but what choices are taken, and what levels they achieve are down to the abilities of the pupil/student themselves, i.e. ‘they decide on their way forward’. However, as will be explained later in the article, concealed within the way the curriculum is taught are the means by which the desire to gain a wider knowledge of the world ceases to be the goal of the pupil/student. It is the application of the curriculum which renders learning useless and boring to them. The irony is, that this method of thwarting the early curiosity of the school age child is the so-called programme of “Child-Centred-Education” imported from the USA. Details of this methodology will be given later in the article.

Even though class sizes are much too large, during the years at Primary school, the children, on the whole, are allowed to be inquisitive, as educational research has shown that hardly anything can stop a child’s inquisitiveness during this period. Secondary school education on the other hand, is a different matter altogether. This is available to pupils/students up to the age of eighteen in Britain. The ‘education’ provided during the age of 11 to 16 is narrow in content, and the ‘knowledge’ given is expected to be taken at face value. For although questioning within set bounds is permissible, going beyond them and having the initiative to look beyond these limits is not.

Education appears to open up a little more from 17 to 18, but these students, in fact, face another variation of an ‘education’ which points them to a vision of the world suitable for the needs of capitalism.

Subjects such as history and geography are taught in such a way as to make pupils/students accept a one-sided view of events. History, in particular, is taught as though there is no debate about the past. In this subject, as in others, to pass exams the pupils must conform to the prescribed wisdom without question, otherwise they simply don’t pass. This approach is intended to give pupils/students a mindset which they take with them into later life. Psychology is being used here to habituate the pupil/student to accept without question not only the received ‘wisdom’ given out at school but what they see on TV or read in the newspaper. Force of habit is being used here to block out a questioning attitude. In fact, most of the views given by the media hide the class-based reality behind events. If, as parents, we understand the psychological trick being played on our children, then we are halfway there to combatting it.

Teaching to fail.

The following 5 points show just some of the ways students are turned off education:

  1. Young people are subjected to a range of approved educational text-books that are problematic to say the least. This authorised educational material is supplied by the state and has a built-in methodology that inhibits the learning process of these young people. They contain too many and too large knowledge gaps (disjoints) in the progression through a particular topic of a subject. Instead what is needed is small but perceptible jumps in the knowledge level, which are just enough to progress through the topic level and understand it.
  2. A requirement to memorise lists of apparently discontinuous or vaguely related data.
  3. A requirement to recall from memory lists of apparently discontinuous or vaguely related data and to apply them contextually.
  4. Lack of corroborating evidence as to whether the student has progressed or not.
  5. Not enough examples and problems on a topic for each concept to sink in through practice.

(1) Chaotic switching from one topic of a subject to another over a very short time, which means the student is not able to understand and assimilate the topic. (2) Moving to higher levels of a subject without having achieved a reasonable grounding at the previous lower level. (3) Reliance on textbooks that provide few or no answers. This means that students (especially the younger ones) are not able to check whether the work they have done has been successful or not.

It is not only in the direct subject matter of the “National Curriculum” that we find the means to curtail the child’s enthusiasm, but also in what is known as the “hidden curriculum”, i.e. the means by which the subject is delivered. Teachers do not usually realise that the officially approved textbooks have to be structured to take cognisance of the disruptive “hidden curriculum” otherwise these books would not be purchased. Through this delivery method, the teacher becomes oblivious to the fact it does not provide a steady build-up of knowledge in an area or topic of a subject, a build-up which would enable the pupil/student to have the confidence to take on another area of the subject or at a higher level. Instead, chaotic shifting of topics or boring repetition are followed by abrupt change. Through these means of delivery, the assimilation of knowledge is curtailed. Here are a few examples that every student will recognise, all of which produce feelings of inadequacy which lead to frustration

From the 1960s until very recently, grammar was removed from the study of the English Language. This and the subsequent removal of grammar from foreign languages, made it much harder to learn them, as the key to their structure was lost. Parroting phrases and repeating a particular subject area of the foreign language over and over again made them agonizingly boring. As is typical of this ‘education’ system, there has been a 180 degrees turnabout regarding grammar. Now it’s begun to play an important role in the national curriculum. Great demands are now made on teachers in primary and secondary schools to teach complex linguistic and grammatical concepts when most of them have received little linguistic training at teacher training college. This, and the unrealistic examples set, often leads to the pupils at secondary school having difficulty learning these complex grammatical concepts. What is needed is the gradual introduction of grammar, in a way which helps students to construct their own sentences, not the introduction of complex grammatical concepts in isolation from practical tasks.

Also typical of this apparently chaotic ‘educational’ system is that, due to the failings of the teacher training system, which means many teachers have limited knowledge of their subject, it has to resort to educational ‘platforms’. These are presentations for profit by private companies, which can be shown, for example, via the internet. This is where both teacher and pupils may learn the subject at the same time. The students, much more often than not, do not realise what they are up against in this system; for example, it puts the emphasis on student memory, that is, the storing of quite often disparate information, its retrieval and application in the correct context – computers are much better at this.

Group work is encouraged, it being argued that this is a ‘democratic’ method of learning. However, democracy spoken of here, is an abstract idea, it takes no account of the fact that we live in a class-based society. The reality of our system it means that the most articulate are those who get heard. Working-class children with less language skills will be overlooked by the rest of the group. But this achieves the goal of the system, the idea that, above all, pupils must learn to conform. No matter if the group reaches a wrong conclusion, real truth does not count. To convince teachers not to give explanations of how something works, teacher training colleges tell them that pupils have to discover it for themselves. Even though the teacher may know that the children have reached the wrong conclusion, they are not supposed to contradict them, as it is a majority decision. They are not supposed to explain to them where they have gone wrong, as it could be another way of approaching the problem or topic. This approach to problem solving is ‘sold’ to the teacher as, ‘this is what happens in the real world’, in a ‘democracy’ – we must conform to the majority. In effect, this is a brainwashing exercise.

Class Sizes.

A way of saving money which has gone on in recent years and which helps to ensure that students are not engaging with learning is the amalgamation of secondary schools. When one school is sold off, usually for private housing, this achieves both objectives. Fewer schools means bigger class sizes, especially with a growing population, and this has an impact on both the pupils and the teachers. The increase in class and school size reaches a point at which teachers can be overwhelmed. They cannot hope to know pupils as individuals and often give up trying. If children are remembered, it’s usually those children who cause headaches, but the average student tends to be lost in the crowd. Thus, a quantitative change, an increase in teacher to pupil ratio becomes a qualitative one, when ‘lively’ students don’t get the attention they deserve through overcrowding, they tend to misbehave, cause chaos and then all cease to learn.

The Parental Role.

For children from a middle-class background, their parents have the means to provide support at home to help them to cope with the failings of the education system. If they cannot afford private education, they tend to employ private tutors to keep their children in the upper streams. These upper streams are also where the more experienced teachers like to be. Middle class parents mostly have a reasonable knowledge of Maths, Science, English, etc., and a familiarity with the ins-and-outs of the education system. Teachers identify with the middle class parents, at the same time being wary of them. They know that these parents know how to manipulate the system and don’t accept poor standards the way working class parents, due to their ignorance of the system, do. Put this together with parents who have a cut-throat arrogance masked by refined civility, and the expectations of teachers towards middle-class students are raised.

Though a few do fall for the idea, in general, working class people have no desire to ‘aspire’ to a middle-class lifestyle as they find mixing with them alien due to the class nature of British capitalist society. Added to this, working class parents wanting the best for children educationally can have mixed feelings about the ‘opportunities’ it may offer. They are wary of the fact that, unless they are very careful, when their children get into the higher streams they will be guided towards a middle-class outlook on life, and they may lose contact with them. However, most working-class children fail to reach the point where they can go to a decent university, especially some distance from home, their disadvantaged position at school sees to that. Although working-class parents may want to help their children with the work set by the school, they can’t because of their own inadequate education. In many families both parents have to work and they are worn out by the time they get home and don’t have the energy to help their children, even if they could.

The Teacher’s Role.

The working-class pupil is also at a distinct disadvantage because of the perceived class difference between the teacher and pupil. A good many school teachers either do not, or do not want to, comprehend how this discrimination works. This is because this type of school teacher has been inculcated with a petty-bourgeois mentality (have small proprietor mentality which regards itself as being of the middle class). Such attitudes have to be overcome by patient persuasion, as it’s not where their real interests lie, even though now many think it is. If a strengthened working-class knows itself, and the real relationships between it and the selfish wants of other classes, no amount of waffle can cover up the motivation of others.

It is problematic for working-class pupils/students, when teachers have such an attitude, it means they look upon working-class children not as they would look upon their own class. It must be said though, hardly any of the teachers, when they teach the ‘educational’ syllabus, believe that they are teaching children to conform to ideas which will limit their knowledge of the world to that which is required by the capitalist class. However, educational theories such as that of the pragmatists are there to conceal the practical reality from both parents and teachers. Other teachers who do realise that the present ‘educational’ methodology damages the hopes and aspirations of the pupils/ students also know that if they openly question it, they will get into trouble with higher authorities.

Educationalists’.

The state sector in schools also has to suffer from the approved educationalists who oversee the National Curriculum. These educationalists continually rock from one extreme to the other. At one extreme is the so-called anti-authoritarian “student-centred” learning, this is biased towards practice and dismisses theory. At the other extreme, is “teacher led” learning, this is biased towards theory and the authority of the teacher. Their role is to ‘police’ the system, ensuring teachers stick to approved books and teaching methods, even when these result in chaos in the classroom and de-motivated pupils.

Academy Schooling.

The latest method being used to match the workforce to the demands of the market takes the form of academy schools has been copied from the US education System. Introduced by the Blair government, these schools were supposed to be a response to the concerns of parents about the low level of education their children were being subjected to. However, what they really were, was a response to the frustrations of businesses and with the low educational level and the indiscipline of pupils coming out of schools that were controlled by liberal left bureaucrats in the local ‘education’ authorities. These schools had met the needs of the 1980s when industry was being relocated in the Far East and there was no longer the demand for a skilled workforce. Lower educational levels were acceptable to a system in which young people often faced long term unemployment or unskilled work. If these young people had been well educated they may have rebelled against a system which offered them no future. However, with the further rise of finance capital, information technology and the service and retail sectors the needs of the market have changed. What schools are now required to do is to produce managers who are prepared to unquestioningly implement the values of the free market, as well as workers who are prepared to work longer hours, for less money and with no job security. Managers have to be ‘tough’, in other words they have to get the workforce to accept these conditions.

The academy schools are run as not-for-profit businesses, and they promote the ethos of the business world. Pupils are expected to dress like businessmen and women, in suits and ties. Discipline is strict. Dr Christy Kulz, a Levehulme Research Fellow at Cambridge University conducted field work in an academy school and this was reported in the article ‘“Little Robots”: behind the scenes at an academy school’:

Enforcement comes through what Kulz calls the “verbal cane”. Tongue-lashings administered by teachers regularly echoed around the corridors, and were encouraged by senior staff. One teacher told Kulz that seeing tall male members of staff screaming in the faces of 11-year-olds was “very hard to digest”.

This verbal aggression is heightened by the panoptic surveillance built into the very architecture of the school (panoptic – Victorian prison buildings had incorporated into them a design which physically facilitated mass surveillance – it was designed by the Utilitarian philosopher, Jeremy Bentham -DT). All activity is conducted within the bounds of a U-shaped building with a complete glass frontage. Everyone is on show at all times, including staff, who felt constantly monitored and pressured into visibly exerting the discipline favoured by management.’

Kulz also discovered that academies also aimed at producing students with a middle class-based attitude to life, which she called ‘cultural cloning’:

Black children with fringes, or children who congregated outside takeaways, were reprimanded immediately. White middle-class children with long floppy hair, or gathering en masse by Tesco, were ignored. Teachers troubled by this would hint at it in hushed tones.

The approach of many academy schools is one of cultural cloning,” says Kulz. “The Dreamfields creed is that ‘urban children’, a phrase used by staff to mean working-class and ethnic minority kids assumed to have unhappy backgrounds, need salvaging – with middle-class students positioned as the unnamed, normative and universal ideal.”’

Teachers in the academies are also put under great pressure to meet targets:

Staff at Dreamfields (Kulz’s invented name for the school she studied) are subject to ‘teacher tracking’, a rolling system in which student grades are converted into scores, allowing management to rank the teachers – an approach staff compared with salesmen being judged on their weekly turnover.

This pressurised auditing resulted in rote learning to avoid a red flag in the system. “You put a grade in that satisfies the system instead of it satisfying the student’s knowledge and needs,” one teacher confessed to Kulz, explaining his ‘real job’ was not to teach understanding of his subject, but to get students to produce a set product quickly and accurately. One student described himself to Kulz as a “little robot”.’

Many of the academies call themselves ‘business’ academies and openly foster the culture of the business world:

At the Corby Business academy in Northamptonshire, discipline is not so much imposed as assumed, according to its principal, John Henrys. The school simply expects its pupils to behave as they would in a business environment’ The Guardian 19/11/13.

 

 

A Much Better Way of Educating the Young.

As a first step towards a society, in which the working class are the ruling class, we would need to take from the present system the best it can offer, throwing away its dross and bringing about an education system for the young which brings together practice and theory. It is not possible, in one bound, to leap to a fully developed socialist education system. The best which the current system has to offer is free education for children from 3 to 18, although the content of that education is not designed to realise children’s potential.

There is an alternative method of education which can help children to reach their full potential. To counter these barriers the dialectical method should be used. One aspect of this method entails a gradual stepping-up in the level of knowledge and not allowing any discernible breaks in that particular area of a subject. After a period of time there is suddenly a point reached when the person doing the studying, realises that they have grasped a deeper understanding of that area of the subject.

Secondly, education needs to help people to realise the connections between subjects such as history and economics. At the moment there are very defined boundaries between subjects which prevent children making connections. There is also a boundary between academic and work-based learning, whereas these should be intimately linked in a way that means theoretical and practical knowledge feed into each other.

The courses that were once free of charge, that is, in the specialised vocational and scientific training from 18 onwards, and which can last for 3, 4 or 6 years, would be without charge once again. As for the dross to be discarded, one example would be, that there would be no school, private or public, specifically designed for the middle-class, the wealthy capitalists or the aristocracy. All age groups, from infancy to the higher education of young men and women, no matter what their parent’s income and occupation, would study at the same schools and colleges. However, in the initial stages of a changing educational system, residential areas and home environments are still bound to play a part educationally, therefore, desegregating the education system is only the start. Ending the bias in the educational institutions which favour those better off financially and intellectually has to be for some time an ongoing process.

In the 1848 Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels first put forward the proposal that the educational process should consist of a “combination of education with industrial production” as well as the “combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; the gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country by a more equitable distribution of the population”. These ideas were refined in later writings of Marx and Engels. This is seen particularly at the Geneva Congress of the First International where the concept of the “polytechnikisation” of education was proposed, that is, poly-technical schooling.

Poly-technical schooling does not mean a school which is used to provide the grounding for students to fill a particular role or a specialism required by the economy; that is, it is not there to turn out students whose roles are to be a skilled men and women or even accountants. “Polytechnikisation”/ polytechnicisation refers to the close linkage of theory and practise, to learning by doing. Whenever the teacher teaches something new, the students perform it. But it moves further – the school becomes a centre not just for learning to read, write, understanding both processes and patterns of mathematics and to speak foreign languages, but also learning the principles of all the sciences, taught as the basis of various modes of production. Science lessons would therefore include descriptions of products and processes and the scientific principles involved in their manufacture. Time would not only be spent in the school laboratory or workshop but students would be taken around factories or farms, being shown how real processes illustrate scientific principles. The aim is not to push children into a specific vocational path but to ensure they become scientifically minded. A culture would be created in which the intellect is closely connected with labour and action.

Conclusion.

Education is used by the capitalist state to meet the needs of the system. However, it faces a fundamental contradiction. On the one hand, people need to be educated to function as part of the production process. But at the same time, it is against the interests of the system for working people to be widely educated because they may then start to challenge the system. The state is used under capitalism to reconcile this contradiction. Its role is to ensure people are educated only on a ‘need to know’ basis. The level of education changes over time, depending on the needs of the economy. In the 1960s in Britain there was still a manufacturing base and the need for a skilled workforce. Polytechnic education was provided to meet these vocational needs. In today’s society many of these skilled craftsmen jobs, especially in engineering, have disappeared. The growth of the retail, distribution and service sectors means the education system has changed, along with the lower levels of skill required.

The 1960s also saw the expansion of working-class higher education with free grants to university. The danger of this for the system was that working-class students were at risk of being radicalised. Many were channelled into polytechnics and science or engineering-based subjects. Those who took up subjects such as politics and sociology, especially, found a spider’s web awaiting them to divert them away from challenging the capitalist system. In the neo-liberal system of today working-class students are priced out of higher education and their horizons are strictly limited.

We have seen how the education system under capitalism is geared to suit the needs of the economy and the state. Working-class pupils have their natural curiosity limited and are disengaged from a system which is set up to make them fail. However, as our education system is based within a capitalist system, it serves the needs of that system. Working-class rule, integral to the Marxist form of socialism, would change the way children were taught, enabling all children to reach their full potential.

The NHS – separating myth from reality

The Labour Party frequently refers to the creation of the NHS as one of its greatest triumphs. Is this reality or myth? It is certainly true that the Attlee Labour government of 1945 was eventually responsible in 1948 for the implementation of the Beveridge Report published in of 1942. By advocating a free comprehensive health service after the WW2, the Beverage Report’s official standing boosted the fighting moral of both the armed services and workers in industry. This report was a consensus document produced by the wartime coalition government, and, as this article will show, the attitude of post war governments, both Labour and Conservative, to the NHS has been broadly similar throughout the post WW2 period.

In fact, the creation of the NHS was the result of a number of factors which led to great pressure being placed on the government to deliver on the Beveridge report. Firstly, during the war, the economy, food distribution and many other facets of society were subject to much greater levels of planning and state control than was the case in peacetime. People were able to see that this was more efficient and fairer than the situation in the 1930s. Secondly, having experienced mass unemployment and the poverty and hopelessness which went with it, working people, in general, were determined they would not go back to it after the war. Working class people were especially aware of the promises made during the first World War and of the way they had been betrayed after the war and did not want the same to happen again.

The creation of the welfare state and the NHS must also be seen against the background of rival economic systems. Britain, like the rest of the Western European capitalist states, was mixed economy, i.e. partially planned state run industries being used to prop up the emerging mixed market economies. The USSR had a fully planned economy and the East European states allied to it were in the process of establishing planned economies. During the second world war, the USSR was an ally of Britain and many realised that without it the war could well have been lost. ‘… people attributed that to the success of Soviet planning and Soviet socialism. In 1943, a home intelligence report said that there was an almost unanimous belief that “the success of the Russian armies is due to the political system of that country”. (Bogdanor 2014). In other words, capitalism was competing against another ideology.

Also, people believed that Britain, Russia and the USA had shown the state could plan things better, and that was well summed-up by one commentator, who said: “We have shown, in this War, that we British don’t always muddle through. We have shown we can organise superbly. Look at these invasions of the Continent, which have gone like clockwork. Look at the harbours we have built on those beaches. No excuse any more for unemployment and slums and under-feeding! Using even half the energy and invention and pulling together of what we have done in this War, what is there we cannot do? We have virtually exploded the arguments of old fogies and “betternotters”, who have said we cannot afford this and we must not do that. If we can do it in war, why can’t we do it in peace?” (Bogdanor 2014).

Time would later show that many of those who managed the various parts of the planned economy and the armed forces in the USSR, even though they were well paid and generally came from a working-class background were becoming dissatisfied with their position in it. Many of these managers and officers grew to look upon their position as one with responsibility without power, as they could be removed at any time if sufficient numbers of those that they managed decided they were abusing their position. The situation was set to eventually play out as an antagonistic contradiction which would bring an end to the planned economy of the USSR. The success of these elements, inevitably led back to capitalism in the USSR, so that, by the 1970s, the USSR was clearly no longer represented an alternative ideology. This was to play its part in the way that the NHS moved further and further from state control.

At the same time, in 1945, there was clear recognition that public opinion was overwhelmingly against a return to the deprivations of the 1930s. Webster is explicit about the ‘overwhelming public pressure’ for a nationalised hospital system, and a rejection of the previous way of providing health care. ‘Radical improvement of the health service came high in popular expectations’, he argues, and proposals for comprehensive reform were consistently ‘greeted with spontaneous acclaim’ For Jacobs, the ‘mass public had extensive influence’ on the creation of the NHS, not only because its ‘concerns naturally (and unintentionally) seeped into discussion among elites’ but also because ‘policy-makers had come to feel politically pressured to take an explicit interest in tracking and incorporating public preferences’. C. Webster, The Health Services since the War. Vol. 1: Problems of Health Care. The National Health Service before 1957 (1988), pp. 1, 27–8. Jacobs, The Health of Nations, pp. 16–17.

If we convert this academic language into plain English, the ruling class was afraid of the consequences if they did not deliver on the promises made, in particular, to servicemen. There was especially strong support for Labour in the armed services because the Labour Party was making this one their key electioneering issue. Servicemen feared the unemployment and homelessness to which the soldiers of the First World War had returned. It has been claimed that the pro left-wing bias of teachers in the armed services was a contributing factor (Wikipedia). Although there was an electoral truce during the War, there was not a political truce, and there was a body called the Army Bureau for Current Affairs which gave lectures on current affairs to servicemen to educate them in politics. Many of those who gave these lectures were left wing and the servicemen who voted Labour did not want a repetition of the empty promises made in 1918 by Lloyd George of ‘Homes fit for Heroes.’ The servicemen had also experienced high levels of medical care in the army and failed to see why they should settle for less in peacetime

The Beveridge Report was published in December 1942 and shortly after that, in February 1943, there was a debate in Parliament on the Report. The Coalition Government’s line was that the report was excellent but that they could not make any promises about it – they would have to see whether it could be afforded. That seemed to remind people of what they saw as broken promises after 1918 and added to the pressure for real social change. (Bogdanor 2014)

To support this view, we have the interviews conducted in 1945 by Mass-Observation – a social science project to gauge public opinion. Mass-Observation recorded that, among younger working-class wives especially, a lack of equality of provision aroused a good deal of protest: ‘Yes. The hospitals for poor people should be made as comfortable as the rich nursing homes are. Rich people don’t suffer, so why should we? … If you have money you can have the best anaesthetics and everything. That’s not right, is it?’ A building labourer’s wife, remembering that she was not offered pain relief, complained that ‘Something should be given. I was tired out before I started. People with plenty of money don’t have to suffer pain’. M-O File 2236, ‘Observations on the Reluctant Stork’, Apr. 1945, p. 31.

In the pre-war period there was a three-tier system of hospitals. The rich had private clinics and nursing homes. Then there were voluntary or charitable hospitals which relied on donations from wealthy philanthropists and also from working class organisations such as the coal miners’ union. Finally, there were municipal hospitals provided by local authorities, often using old workhouse buildings. Jacobs points to a widespread dissatisfaction with existing standards of treatment, a strong public dislike of voluntary hospitals and their ‘flag day’ systems of financing, and a public aversion to workhouse-turned-municipal hospitals because of their links to the Poor Law. Jacobs, The Health of Nations, pp. 16–17.

The municipal hospitals accounted for some three quarters of the total number of beds across England and Wales in 1921, falling to two-thirds of beds by 1938. The statutory obligation to admit the local sick resulted across the country in much ‘over-crowding in wards and in under-staffing’. In Grimsby, for example, the ‘high levels of overcrowding meant that patients had to be accommodated in the workhouse, or on tables and stretchers on the ward floors’. TNA MH 80/34, Nuffield Provincial Hospital Trust, ‘The Hospital Surveys: The Doomsday Book of the Hospital Services’, 1945, pp. 4–5.

Britain was virtually bankrupt after the war, so where did the Labour government find the money to set up the NHS? The answer lies in the European Rescue Plan (ERP), better known as the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan had US control over European re-construction as its goal, ensuring that Europe would serve as a buffer to the Soviet Union and also support US defence. Britain received $3.2 billion in ERP aid between 1948 and 1951 (in addition to several billions before the ERP began). The bulk of this money was to be spent on the British defence industry, but it also enabled the Labour government to deliver on its promises of an NHS. At first, senior administrators and US leaders supported the Labour Party and its policies, believing that a popular social democratic government in Britain was better able to resist Communist influence. However, by 1950, concern was expressed in America that ERP funds were being used to help finance socialist experiments in Britain at the expense of defence spending needed to counter the Soviet threat. Daniel M. Fox, “The Administration of the Marshall Plan and British Health Policy.” Journal of Policy History 2004 16(3): 191-211. Issn: 0898-0306 in Project Muse

In fact, the spending on the NHS was quickly limited. Pressures on the NHS were triggered, in the lead up to the 1951 Budget, by a planned increase of over 50% in defence expenditure for 1951/2. Charges for dentures and glasses were introduced in May 1951 by the Labour government and prescription charges in May 1952. (Hansard) by the Conservative government. Doctors had, from the beginning of the NHS, been allowed to continue to practice privately, as well as within the NHS. G.P.s and dentists continued to operate as small businesses, but now getting their money from the state. Instead of being funded from general taxation, the National Insurance system was used to fund the NHS, meaning that working people were actually paying for it out of their wages.

Although the NHS was undoubtedly a huge improvement on pre-war healthcare, we can see that its introduction was a result of huge pressures on the government and that it was seen as a way of using social democracy to prevent people striving for a real socialist system. During the 1950s and 1960s, while the USSR was still regarded as a rival social and economic system, both Labour and Conservative governments broadly supported the NHS. However, by the 1970s, the strength of the working class, combined with high levels of employment had led to a falling rate of profit. Whilst Labour were in power, in 1976, they brought in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and this led to the beginning of the severe cutting back on public services, including the NHS, which has continued to the present day. From 1976 onwards, Neo-liberalism became the dominant ideology of both Labour and Conservative governments, with its emphasis on the free market and opposition to social spending.

Gradually, the extent of involvement by the private sector in the NHS has been growing year on year. At the same time, the number of beds in NHS hospitals has been falling. In 1987 there were 297,000 hospital beds, in 2015 there were only 130,000, this is a fall of 56%.

The beginning of the process was the creation of an internal market. Purchasers and providers of services were introduced in the 1980s. Administrative costs rose from 5% in the mid. 1970s to 14% in 2003 mainly due to internal market operations. Around 10% of the NHS budget or £10 billion a year is therefore spent on running an internal market. This began the process of turning health into a commodity.

Sarah Gangoli (former doctor and health campaigner) talked in a recent interview about how, in 1987, Thatcher introduced hospital management which took control away from doctors and matrons who had been on hospital boards. This introduced a corporate class into the NHS and they are the best paid class of workers in the NHS. They are well remunerated because they implement the policies of the financial elite. The function of that bureaucracy is to separate day to day clinical responsibility from any real power. This management class is part of corporate capital, senior NHS executives go off to work for private healthcare insurance companies or other corporate financial interests, such as management consultancies that are all benefiting. They change some rules when in government and then come back as a private company executive and harvest the benefits from those rule changes.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party, rebranded as ‘New Labour’ in the 1990s, had pledged to abolish the internal market but went full throttle in the opposite direction. Once in power, New Labour’s NHS Plan (2000) and NHS Improvement Plan resulted in the internal market being extended.

The Labour Government also committed itself to public-private partnerships. These would take many shapes, the first of which were Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTC)…. intended to ‘unbundle’ the high-volume, low risk, lucrative NHS work, such as cataracts and knee and hip replacements.

ISTCs were small fry compared to Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs). Labour expanded PFIs to build and run infrastructure projects. . . The completed PFI projects have been leased back to the NHS with repayment, usually over 25 to 30 years, at high interest rates (some over 70%). The bill for hospitals alone is projected to rise above £79 billion. This exceeds the original capital cost (i.e. actual value) of £11.4 billion, seven-fold. If you wanted to think up a way to bleed the NHS dry then you would struggle to do better than PFI. To simplify, the PFI drain would cover the entire NHS budget for over 2 years.

In a recent interview, Allyson Pollock (Professor of Public Health, Research and Policy), explained how PFI has become the engine for privatisation, service cuts and closures because the cost of borrowing is so high that it must be passed back to the services that must pay for it annually out of their operating budgets. Government borrowing rates are very low, less than half a percent but interest rates on PFI borrowing are between 8 and 15%. On top of that equity investors are demanding very high rates of return. Instead of getting 3 hospitals or schools for the money we are paying, we are only getting one. The only thing they can do is close, merge or sell off services and cut the staffing budget to pay for these loans.

Politicians of both parties are benefiting directly from the creeping privatisation of the NHS. Over 200 parliamentarians have recent past or present financial interests in companies involved in private healthcare. The private sector is slowly taking over more and more of the NHS. This started with the sell-off of the ancillary services such as cleaning, laundry and catering services.

Here are some of the winners according to Colin Leys and Stewart Player in their book, The Plot Against the NHS:

* Private healthcare companies, both British, such as Care UK and Tribal, and international, such as Netcare (a South African hospital chain, which opened several ISTCs and UnitedHealth)

* NHS information technology contracts e.g. the Connecting for Health fiasco

* Big Seven companies in hospital cleaning, catering and laundry (with annual revenues totalling £2 billion)

Huge amounts of money are wasted on deals with the private sector. The NHS now has 53,000 contracts with the private sector, requiring 25,000 staff and an annual budget of at least £1.5 billion to administer.

Legislation has now been passed which allows any part of the NHS to be transferred to the private sector. This is through The Health and Social Care Act 2012 which allows any qualified provider to provide healthcare. It means that competitive tendering of NHS contracts has been opened up to providers from the voluntary and more importantly private sectors.

An estimated £2.6 billion worth of contracts have been awarded to profit-driven companies, such as Bupa, Virgin Care and Care UK since the Act came into effect in April 2013.

Youssef El Ginghy, author of ‘How to Privatise the NHS in 10 Easy Steps’ explained how the latest government creation, Accountable Care Organisations, which divide the NHS into large regions of the country, will have budgets based on the size of the population, regardless of need. They can then make contracts with health firms to provide care on a regional basis. ACOs are being sold as ‘getting rid competition and the internal market’ but the reality is very different – they will consolidate privatisation meaning that instead of tendering out individual services they will be responsible for tendering out whole swathes of health and social care. This has happened because companies such as Sirca and Virgin have found that taking on individual GP surgeries has not been as profitable as they hoped. So rather than tendering out a small contract for one service in a hospital or a single GP surgery, this restructuring is to create the economies of scale demanded by the corporate sector.

The Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, stated in Parliament in October 2018 that the government would not sign any new PFI deals. The reason for this is that the Accountable Care Organisations will allow large parts of the NHS to be put up for tender to the private sector, thus doing away with the need for PFIs, which have already served their purpose of bankrupting NHS Trusts.

The year on year underfunding of the NHS, together with the PFI debt, is now bringing the service to its knees. The Telegraph reports that as many as one in five hospitals are facing closures of some kind, A&Es and maternity wards are being shut down and thousands of NHS staff have been sacked, with waiting lists inevitably going up . . . Whilst the government cuts nurse training places, and has abolished bursaries, hospitals are forced to hire more expensive agency nurses.

The 2008 banking crisis has played a huge part in the process of destroying the NHS. Originally covered by the mass media in terms of the corruption of the banking system which led to the £500 billion bailout, this was soon changed to the ‘Austerity’ story, with the role of the banks conveniently forgotten. The loss of beds and the crisis in the NHS is seen purely as a result of ‘necessary austerity measures’ not as due directly to the banking bailout.

In her book ‘The Crisis Theory’, Naomi Klein shows how the guru of neo-liberalism, Milton Friedman, saw crises as opportunities for capitalism. Small, quantitative changes, such as the gradual reduction in hospital beds, eventually lead to a qualitative change such as the crisis we are now seeing. At this point, the crisis can be used to argue that drastic measures are needed – such as bringing in the private sector to ‘rescue’ the NHS.

From its inception the NHS was never intended to be an integrated system, fully funded from general taxation. Private companies have, throughout the life of the NHS, made massive profits from selling drugs, equipment and services to the NHS. Large amounts of public money were invested in the NHS, particularly during the hospital building programme of the 1960s but much of the service is now being hived off to the private sector, which is making profits on the back of that original public expenditure. The NHS is being parcelled up and offered for sale, in terms of lucrative contracts for the private companies.

The NHS is being privatised by stealth because politicians realise that a full-frontal attempt at turning it into a US style system would create massive public opposition. The general public are, in the main, completely in the dark about the corporate interests which have had their eye on one of Britain’s biggest assets – the NHS, for decades. There is opposition to this process but, in the main, it is dominated by the middle class. The majority of them have never been prepared to switch to private insurance and so have, like the working class, a vested interest in the NHS. However, their control over the current campaign is meaning it is having limited impact. Many of them are Labour Party members and trot out the old message that we just need to elect a Labour government and the NHS will be safe, ignoring Labour’s track record and the fact that Labour councils throughout the country have been complicit in the introduction of the latest reforms. They hold onto the knowledge they have of what is really happening and their campaigns take the form of lobbying politicians and attending meetings with NHS executives.

The few successful campaigns there have been, such as in Lewisham and Grantham, have been based in working class areas and have focused on exposing the local politicians and health service executives who have been responsible for the closure of accident and emergency departments. They have mobilised local people and made sure the issue does not go away.

If we understand how the NHS is intimately linked to social and economic forces both at a national and international level we can separate myth from reality. The current Labour Party would like us to see them as the creators and saviours of the NHS. As we can see, this is very far from reality. This truth needs exposing and working-class people given the knowledge they need to mount effective opposition to the destruction of the NHS.

 

 

The drug problem – a revolutionary approach

Introduction

The younger generation in Britain have never known a time when working class areas were drug free. But it is only since the late 1970s that the various forms of mind-altering drugs have become a serious problem for working people. To understand why and how this change occurred we need to look at the historical and economic context.

 

Part One. The economic base of the problem.

The de-industrialisation of Britain which has taken place in the last 50 years was partly in response to the fall in the rate of profit which occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. Relatively low unemployment led to a fairly strong working class which made inroads into profits by demanding higher wages and an increase in the social wage (housing, health, education). Having a working-class on their hands which expected a decent standard of living was too much for the ruling class of Britain. The response of the system was to create mass unemployment by exporting capital to low wage economies in countries around the Pacific Ocean rim and India. This was justified ideologically as a return to the so-called ‘Free Market’.

In the latter half of the 1970s the increased pace of de-industrialisation was facilitated by the ‘Social Contract’ which was drawn up by the Labour Party and the TUC. It came on the back of the successful strikes in 1972 of the miners and dockworkers which made the ruling class paranoid about their future existence. Dark threats about a coup-d’état from both the bankers and the military frightened the TUC/Labour Party establishment into realising that they had to break the unionised working-class at the shop-floor level. They realised if they didn’t do something quickly they would be regarded as surplus to requirements by the ruling class. As far as the TUC/Labour Party establishment were concerned their well-paid cushy numbers were in jeopardy. To show they were still a valuable asset to British ruling class, the TUC/Labour Party Liaison Committee came up with the “Social Contract” between the unions and a future Labour government. In 1973 the “Social Contract” became the cornerstone Labour Party policy.

In the main, it was skilled and semi-skilled manufacturing and mining jobs which were lost in the succeeding years. This produced the desired effect of lowering wages. The social wage could then be attacked by massive cutbacks in social housing, health and education. However, these actions created a contradiction for the capitalist system. There was a great danger that people would respond through mass protests and rebellion.

The defenders of capitalism in Britain have sought to establish various perverse schemes to resolve this contradiction. One of these, is to use mind-altering drugs as a weapon of social control. In Britain, this form of control becomes widespread after the general election in1979 when the Conservative government was in office. The form in which we meet this control was initially pioneered in the US, by way of the supposedly alternative-lifestyle ‘counter-culture’. It being a response to the potentially revolutionary situation around the time of the anti-Vietnam war protests and the Black Panthers. The so-called ‘counter culture’ was actually the brain child of the CIA which wanted black people diverted into gang-on-gang confrontations and rebellious middle-class youth pacified through drugs. The widespread introduction of mind altering drugs was just one way in which resistance was diverted in Britain.

Later, we see after the election of the Labour government in1997, the Labour government of Tony Blair promoted the ‘night time economy’. This occurred after the massive drinks company, Diageo, fed money into the coffers of the Labour Party. This policy was promoted, ironically, as one that would bring civilised continental alcohol culture to Britain which would then remove drunkenness from the streets. Loosening gambling laws and of credit for consumerism were other responses by the system. They all had in common the control of people who otherwise might have reacted against the oppression they faced. These same measures allowed much of the wealth of those employed to be directed straight into the ‘pockets’ of the so-called service providers and hence into the coffers of the banks.

 

Part two – the response to the drug problem

In understanding and tackling the current drug problem there are two possible contradictory approaches. The first sees the problem as one which can be dealt with through government policies and individual actions, the reformist view. This approach leads to an emphasis on legalising drugs, especially marijuana/cannabis, providing heroin substitutes such as methadone, professional drug counsellors and reliance on the state, in particular the police and customs in dealing with the problem. Each of these methods can be seen as the ‘sticking plaster’ approach. The legalisation of drugs has been tried in various states in the US, having been sold as a way to put more money into treatment.

The oft quoted Colorado legalisation of medicinal (2000), industrial (2013) and then recreational (2014) marijuana has in fact been of no benefit for ordinary populace. In 2014, communities across Colorado were promised that funds from the marijuana taxes would benefit communities, particularly schools. Dr Harry Bull, the Superintendent of Cherry Creek Schools, one of the largest school districts in the state, said “so far, the only thing that legalisation of marijuana has brought to our schools is marijuana.” According to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Report: “Since legalising marijuana, Colorado’s youth marijuana use rate in the nation, 74% higher than the national average.” (This was really no change, as marijuana had been freely available before but legalisation made possession of it legitimate). The headmaster of a school in Maryland has seen the negative effect of marijuana on students: “The chemical effect of marijuana is to take away ambition. The social effect is to provide an escape from challenges and responsibilities…. Using marijuana creates losers”. The drug market continues to thrive, both legal and illegal and drug cartels are still in charge in this free market, with the illegal able to minimise costs and have higher THC (the psycho-active drug in marijuana) potency.

The legalisation argument is also based on the idea that marijuana/ cannabis is relatively harmless. In fact, a recent study in Britain found that 79% of the population thought cannabis was safe while only 2% thought there were health risks. However, opinions based on the 1960s ideas of safety are out of date, as the strength is now generally15 times stronger than then. The dangerous long-term effects of regular cannabis use have been clearly demonstrated. A single cannabis joint ‘may cause as much damage to the lungs as five chain-smoked cigarettes’ Guardian July 31st 2007. .

The scientific literature is clear that marijuana is, on average, addictive for one in ten of its users,* and that its use significantly impairs bodily and mental functions. Cannabis/Marijuana use is associated with memory loss, cancer, immune system deficiencies, psychotic symptoms, heart disease and birth defects. The US National Research council also concluded that the ‘long-term use of cannabis/marijuana may alter the nervous system in ways that promote violence’. Since legalisation, Los Angeles has seen a 57% increase in aggravated assault. *Cannabis: the facts. UK NHS

One study in The Lancet Psychiatry concludes that the risk of individuals having a psychotic disorder showed a roughly three times increase in users of skunk-like cannabis, compared with those who never use cannabis”. “As 94 per cent of cannabis seized by police today [2018] is super strength skunk, compared to 51 per cent in 2005, . . .” “Mental health professionals have long had no doubts about the danger. Five years ago, I asked Sir Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, about them. He said that studies show that the “if the risk of schizophrenia for the general population is about one per cent, the evidence is that, if you take ordinary cannabis, it’s about 2 per cent; and if you smoke regularly you might push it up to 4 per cent; and if you smoke ‘skunk’ every day you push it up to eight per cent”.* *Patrick Cockburn at https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/cannabis-legislation-psych…

The provision of methadone to heroin addicts may help to wean them off heroin (although thousands continue to die from heroin overdose when they go back to heroin from methadone having lost their tolerance of it) but it merely substitutes one addiction for another. Professional counsellors offer a revolving door for addicts and rely on methadone as the main treatment option.

Relying on customs officials and the police to solve the problem is clearly failing – but it is not meant to succeed. The rare cases of police officers who have genuinely tried to stop drugs have seen them rapidly removed. It all started in 1979 when the Conservative government planned to cut the number of customs officers by 1,800 from the then present 28,000, with a prospect of 6,000 more being lost by 1980. At the time the Society of Civil Servants, [now the Public & Commercial Services Union, PCS] protested that “Smugglers are walking straight through with no one to stop them. We need more staff and not less as the Government plans.” The PCS, which represents customs staff also protested again in 2015 that 10,000 customs inspectors’ jobs had been cut since 1980, that is, by 36% from 28,000 in 1979 to just 18,000 in 2015. According to the latest annual Home Office report for 2016/17, permanent border force staffing was down to 7674, that is, a 73% drop in border force personnel since 1979. The 2015 figures were from a Sunday Mirror investigation, and the 2016/17 figures from a Daily Mail investigation in 2018.

The Sunday Mirror’s investigation was entitled “Drug seizures at British ports plummet as Border Force staff focus on immigration checks.” “. . . has found cuts to the workforce – which will be slashed by 5,200 to just 18,000 by March 2015 – have left alarming gaps in frontier protection.” “Officers confiscated £125 million less heroin, cannabis and ecstasy the they did three years ago, new figures reveal.” Customs vans are now forced to carry the logo ‘Drugs and Customs’, ensuring that the drug traffickers are well informed about their presence and also putting the officials at risk of intimidation. “In 2014 alone, there was a 96% fall in seizures of cannabis resin.” [Quotes are from Vincent Moss, https//www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/drug-seizures-british-port…].

Within working class communities, it is the lumpen proletariat who are responsible for dealing in drugs. Council officials, mostly left-liberals, rationalise the placing of lumpens in working class communities on the grounds of least cost to the local taxpayer. These officials have no regard to the reality that lumpens make the lives of those around them a misery. As far as these liberal council officials are concerned, there is no problem with this scum being dumped on ordinary working people.

The left-liberals advocate the free availability of drugs, in the same way as they advocate the free movement of people. However, both play into the hands of the capitalist system. The free availability of drugs and mass immigration both generate profits, the one through money laundering the other by reducing wages. They are also both mechanisms of social control, drugs by pacifying people and mass immigration by dividing the working class.

The second, revolutionary approach to the drug problem realises that the economic base of capitalist society needed drugs both as a profit-making industry but also to protect it from disaffection. Drugs have been used to prevent the opposition to the de-industrialisation of Britain which could otherwise have caused a major headache for the system. Throughout history drugs and activities that become addictive have been used as mechanism of control and as revenue streams. Different drugs served different functions. Cocaine is a drug which causes people to have an aggressive, ruthless approach to others. It is also a stimulant used to increase work rates. It is widely used by those in work to give them ‘an edge’ in backstabbing, competitive environments. Cannabis/marijuana and heroin are drugs which tranquillise and are used to blot out pain.

The revolutionary approach recognises that the system wants drugs to be freely available as they are an integral part of the financial system, with the major British bank, the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) heavily involved in laundering drug money. Columbian cocaine is mainly channelled to Europe via the Caribbean, and to the US through Mexico. In July 2012, a US Congress report into HSBC’s involvement in drug laundering found that “the Mexican affiliate of HSBC [i.e. HBMX] transported $7 billion in physical US dollars to HBUS [i.e. U.S. branch of HSBC] from 2007 to 2008, outstripping other Mexican banks, even one twice its size, raising red flags that the volume of dollars included proceeds from illegal drug sales in the U.S.” Forbes Magazine [i.e. top U.S. business magazine] reports that “HSBC actively circumvented rules designed to “block transactions involving terrorists, drug lords, and rogue regimes.” Though the US government fined HSBC for laundering drug money, the UK government was, and is, noticeable for its lack of interest in any form of disciplinary measures against Britain’s biggest money laundering bank.

On the same subject, the Daily Mail reported: “Concerns over the bank’s links to Mexican drug dealers included £1.3 billion stashed in accounts in the Cayman Islands. One HSBC compliance officer admitted the accounts were misused by organised crime.” The Daily Mail also noted that that David Cameron’s Trade Minister, Lord Greene of Hurstpierpoint, “chaired HSBC during the period covered by the allegations.” Thus, we see the financial link between a minister of the British Crown, a bank caught red-handed laundering drug money and drug racketeers that sell their wares via local lumpens to unsuspecting and inexperienced youth.

Prior to de-industrialisation, banks in Britain as elsewhere, lent money to the manufacturing sector and saw a return on their investment from the production of goods. Since the movement of capital to the Far East, the banks have turned to drugs, among other areas, such as high rents, as a way of extracting money from the British population. The involvement of finance capital in the promotion of drugs goes all the way to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The increase in the narcotic drugs trade is a direct result of IMF policies that have been forced upon economies all over the world.

As the location and the timing was a very important one for the massive lift-off of the drugs trade in Britain around 1980, we’ll use the instance of Latin America. From the mid. 1970s till around 1982, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico and a number of other Latin American countries invested in their local industries. As the graph (Fig.5) below shows, beginning in 1975 and ending around 1981, the Mexican governments carried out an effective programme of eradication of marijuana/cannabis and opium-heroin production and at the same time carried out an economic policy of high growth. This was in direct opposition to the long-term interests of the international banks which supported, what was, the status quo. This is where the banks from the developed world require many of the underdeveloped countries to act as a market for their goods and a source of cheap raw materials. Multi-national companies also wanted these areas as suppliers of cheap labour to their industries. The banks did not want independent industrial development which would compete with other parts of the world set aside for investment by US, European and Japanese banks. They therefore withdrew their support from the businesses of Latin America. Instead, however, the banks temporarily discarded all economic criteria for loan approval and freely extended loans to the governments and their central banks of these countries. This is because governments are not allowed to default on loans but businesses can. Massive debts were therefore created. The total debt increased from $120 billion to $360 billion in six years.

At this point in 1982 the IMF dictated the policies to be followed by the governments, policies which were based on the neoliberal consensus i.e. cuts to health and social care, lower wages and freedom for foreign multi-nationals to invest. These policies spelt the end of any national growth and complete dependence on the international banks. In order to comply with the IMF’s demands, Mexico, for instance, immediately cut imports, greatly decreased internal investment and systematically lowered real income levels by as much as a half of what was the previous level – the Mexican economy was shattered. It is the international banks who have encouraged the restructuring of the economies of Latin America into narco-economies by imposing austerity and the collapse of productive industry which increasingly left many people nowhere to turn but to the drug trade. Pre-1982, there was already a substantial narcotics trade coming out of Peru, Bolivia and Columbia but also low level narcotic drug trade elsewhere in Latin America. However, post-1982 Mexican production of narcotic drugs reached astounding levels and began to rival that of Columbia, Peru and Bolivia due to bankers’ austerity measures.

Its (the IMF’s) stabilisation and development formulas have not only failed to stabilise or develop; they have tightened the external stranglehold on these countries, deepened the poverty of the dispossessed masses and hastened economic and financial denationalisation in the name of the sacred principles of free trade, free competition and freedom of movement of capital.’ (“Open Veins of Latin America”, Author – Eduardo Galeano)

Sources of graph: US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), 1977-87 drug figures, ECLA (investment figures)

Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Mexico account for the vast bulk of cocaine, heroin and marijuana produced in Latin America. But virtually every country in Latin America is now heavily involved in either transhipment, refining or laundering of drug dollars. If we take the $130 billion of estimated drug revenues from Latin America in 1987, it is a sum larger than the Gross National Product of all but about a dozen countries in the world. But very little of this money actually returns to the countries which grow the drugs. 80-90% of the total is directly laundered outside Latin America by international banks for the powerful international mafia. Consequently, it is the banks through which this money is laundered and in which most of the money is ultimately deposited. It is those who own and run the banks who are the main beneficiaries of the $130 billion bonanza from Latin American drugs.

Understanding the role of finance capital in this process is part of the revolutionary approach to the drug problem, an approach which challenges the system in a way that the reformist approach does not. The revolutionary approach also means examining the problem from the point of view of the working class. Tackling the drug problem needs to be done in a way which promotes the development of working class consciousness and self-reliance, as opposed to dependence on the state and middle-class professionals.

 

Part three – the drug problem from a working-class perspective

As an independent working-class organisation, we recognise that the only people who can help the working class are working people ourselves. We therefore need to examine the impact of the transition from industrial to financial capitalism on the working class and then decide on how we will tackle the problem.

The de-industrialisation of Britain and the loss of many skilled manual jobs has had a direct impact on working class culture. Much of the former working-class solidarity was based on the fact that people lived, worked and organised together. The loss of their jobs has hit these communities hard. The system has substituted various forms of escapism for the loss of community and social cohesion. The majority of people do not turn to drugs but other forms of escapism have been introduced to replace the previous social ties. Many people spend hours each day watching TV or other media, or young people visit the local shopping centre for entertainment. Consumerism and celebrity culture are there to fill the emptiness of lives. Long-term unemployment or low wage, low skilled work leaves young people with a feeling of hopelessness which is often relieved by drugs or alcohol. This was, of course, the intention of the system. Escapism serves two purposes: it makes a profit and it promotes social control.

The case study of Liverpool provides material evidence as to how this happened in practice. It could be argued that Liverpool was initially chosen as a pilot for the drugs trade because of its history of militancy, but also the presence of a hard-core violent criminal element.* The decimation of employment in the docks, car industry, Dunlop Tyres and Tate and Lyle was accompanied by the wholesale introduction of drugs into estates in Liverpool and Birkenhead. Although there was opposition, the intervention of the Trotskyist group, Militant ensured it went down a blind alley. * Smack City: Thirty Years of Hurt, http://www.sevenstreets.com/smack-city-thirty-year-liverpool-wirral

Youth unemployment and declining wages have had damaging effect on working class family life. Young people are forced to live at home, unable to become independent because of their low incomes and the exorbitant cost of housing. At the same time, parents who are in work are having to work longer hours to pay the bills. The resulting strain often leads to family division and the loss of one of the important support networks which working people have in capitalism, the family, is then lost. The other is community, which we have seen, has also been undermined. Parents and young people are not educated to understand what is happening to them and why. They therefore become victims of the system, with many young people turning to drugs and their parents unable to do anything about it.

 

Part four – a revolutionary responses

Having analysed the problem, we can now start to see how to tackle it. We need to strengthen independent working-class organisations in a political way. At the moment, many working people have rejected politics. They realise that the major parties offer them nothing but one form of oppression or another. The trade unions are run by bureaucrats who not only don’t want to challenge the system but are actually complicit in maintaining it in power. Until people understand the system they are up against they cannot fight it. Class consciousness, education and politicisation are the keys to this.

We can start by giving people the tools to fight against the lumpen elements in their communities who represent one of the biggest threats to working class solidarity. They are the drug pushers and gangs. The introduction of practical approaches, such as training young people in self-defence and in skills which can help them become employed, must be linked to the political understanding of the system.

At the moment drug users are at the mercy of the system. They get very little help in terms of rehabilitation and often it is provided by religious groups who offer religion as a prop instead of drugs. Drug users and their families need to understand that the system is directly benefiting from their misery. This means exposing the forces behind the drug trade every step of the way. Exposing the role of the banks in laundering drug money and encouraging drug production, the unstated role of the British state in allowing a free market in drugs, and the role of lumpens in working class communities in pushing drugs onto vulnerable young people. Local people can become involved in supplying information about what is happening in their communities to the working-class organisations who want to tackle the problem.

The police can be problematic as they may want to ignore it out of fear of damage to their career prospects. Witness the case of ex Det. Supt. Ray Mallon, head of Middlesbrough CID. Appointed to the job in Middlesbrough in 1996, he cracked down especially on drug pushing and criminal activities related to it; reducing crime by 20% in 18 months. Not long after the election of a new Labour government in 1997 and a visit from the new Home Secretary, Jack Straw, he was suspended in November 1997 from his position and formally sacked in 2002. The police authorities searched extensively for any financial irregularities he might be involved in but could find none. When he eventually admitted to 14 disciplinary charges which related to him allowing his subordinates to not follow the correct procedures in respect to the rights of suspected drug dealers, he was able to leave the police and keep his pension rights for 27 years of service. Beginning in 2002 Ray Mallon became the directly elected mayor of Middlesbrough three times. Throughout these times, Mallon saw himself as businessman, i.e. he was managing a business, doing what he was paid to do, Wikipedia said, “His success was attributed to his policies based on social justice and his working-class background.” For a taste the dirty deeds behind Ray Mallon’s removal of from office, see Daily Telegraph 27th January 2004 “200,000 pay out for ‘smears’. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1452699/200000-payout-for-smears-html

The provision of support for addicts by ex-drug users is another way in which working class organisations can improve lives, with education and training being linked to this support. This moves the initiative into working class hands and away from the state, which can withdraw funding from any support group which it decides is being too successful.

The loss of social contact and individual forms of entertainment can be combatted by community social activities, focussed on getting people out of the house and coming together.

The revolutionary approach recognises that while some reforms are beneficial in the short term, in the long run nothing short of getting rid of the capitalist system will solve the problem. Revolutionary politics must be in charge of any reforms. It should be possible to set out a minimum programme of reforms that are both achievable and improve our life and lift our spirits but they must never become the end themselves. Reform, when it becomes an end in itself, loses site of the long-term maximum programme goal of transforming society and slips into an accommodation with capitalism. If we advocate the same measures as the rest of the liberal left, we risk alienation from working class communities which are at the sharp end of the drug problem.

The measures taken in communities to oppose drugs need to be based on the clear political understanding of the real function of drugs in a capitalist society. They are there to dull the senses, to the mask the causes of the alienation and despair felt by the working class, especially the youth who see no future for themselves. They are one of the many tools used to maintain the capitalist class in power.

A revolutionary approach also means giving people a knowledge of their history. Most people below the age of thirty are not aware that there was a time when drugs were not widely used and when working class communities were strong. This kind of collective amnesia is encouraged by the system – it promotes the idea that humans always need some kind of drugs or escapism, that there is no alternative. Education about the struggles of the past, understanding the switch from industrial to financial capitalism and the part played by drugs is a positive strategy which gives people a perspective.

Mass unemployment and lack of family support leave individuals, especially young people, at the mercy of the system. If we are to tackle the problem, working people need to develop structures which channel the energy of young people into organisations which not only support them in dealing with day to day problems such as addiction, but also educate them about why society is like this and that there is another way of organising it.

Britain since 1945

Introduction

The general aim of this article is to highlight a few aspects affecting economic, political and social development from 1945 to 2015. However, this article will, through these highlights, show that it matters not one iota/jot which political party was in government, there is an almost seamless continuity in the rise of financial capitalism and the demise of industrial production in Britain

Another, more particular aim, is to shed some light on a particular fallacy. This fallacy tells us that immediately after World War Two (WW2) it was an extra special time in the history of the Labour Party, a time when it did ‘right’ by the working-class. This myth is spread to support the unsubstantiated belief that at one time the Labour Party had an ethical past when in government. If this myth is taken at face value, then a person can believe in the possibility that social reforms within a capitalist system can lead to social justice and socialism. This, however, is a belief that doesn’t stand up to any form of objective scrutiny.

The British economy, as any other, has to deal with both internal and external relations, and as times change, so do these relations. Though there will be some overlaps, each particular phase/period tends to have its own general pattern of development in the fields of social, economic and political affairs. The requirement of “The Last 70 Years” is to give brief sketches of this period and the ‘bare bones’ of the phases undergone by the British economy over the last seventy years. A Marxist approach will be used in the article. This involves the use of dialectics, which means looking at things as part of a process, it uses the theory to follow the internal and external connections of the British economy and society.

The policies pursued by politicians in the years that immediately followed World War Two (WW2) would have long lasting effects on the economy in Britain and the working-class. In many aspects, it was a very important period, for the Labour government was forced to introduce relatively decent social housing and a health service. This did not happen out of the goodness of the heart of the Labour Party. The workers had been promised a better life after the war, and as many had fought in the armed forces, they were demanding good housing and a free health service and would not accept anything else. However, the Labour Party would also implement other policies that would lay the groundwork and provide the means for chronic industrial decline. Accepting and implementing the US sponsored Marshall Aid Plan set the process going which would lead to industrial decline. Because of its importance, The Marshall Aid Plan section below is more detailed than other sections.

Period 1, 1945 until around 1960

De-Industrialisation Begins.

The Marshall Aid Plan. At the end WW2, the ruling class of Britain was greeted with a situation where they and their state were almost bankrupt. They did not have enough capital to try and re-establish their control over colonies which had been overrun by the Japanese Imperialists. There was not enough in the kitty to carry on being the banker to the Sterling Area (self-governing Commonwealth dominions such as Australia and New Zealand). The overwhelming majority of working people were demanding that their conditions should be much better than before WW2. The ruling class of the USA was financially, economically and militarily had become so strong, it was expanding into areas under the influence of the British ruling class, e.g. the West Indies. In addition, the colonial and semi-colonial countries were rising up against the colonial powers in either nationalist or communist movements and most of Eastern Europe was closed off to their influence, as these states became aligned with the Soviet Union.

The US government ‘stepped into the breach’ in 1947, apparently bearing ‘generous gifts’ in the form of loans. These ‘gifts’ were an integral part of the Marshall Aid Plan, named after its founder, a top general in the American military, who was appointed Secretary of State by President Truman in April 1947. The official name of the Marshall Aid Plan was the European Recovery Program (ERP). It was a scheme to turn European states in vassal states of the USA, but with no regard for the truth, it was portrayed for the consumption of the populations of these states, as a generous gift to its European partners.

The Marshall Aid Plan was an integrated plan which defined each European state’s potential usefulness to the USA’s economic and political interests. Different countries had different use values. Germany, for example, was designated to be, in the main, the industrial powerhouse of Europe. France was designated to be the breadbasket of Western Europe and also provide the French armed forces for operations that would return Vietnam and the rest of Indo-China to the colonial fold until the US could take them over.

Because British capitalism felt forced to fight the Second World War, they had to revive the industrial capacity of Britain. However, this was fated to be a temporary phenomenon once the conditions laid down by the Marshall Plan were accepted wholeheartedly by the ruling elite of Britain and their representatives in parliament. The carrots dangled in front of them were gifts and soft loans of billions of dollars. The Atlee government realised this wouldn’t make it possible to retain direct control of India, but they thought they could reclaim their colonial assets in the Far East, i.e. Burma and Malaya, and still act as the bankers for the Sterling Area, i.e. Australia, New Zealand, etc. Projects were drawn up, usually under the ‘guidance’ of an American businessman. The projects were administered jointly by the British government and an E.R.P. ‘advisor.’ Marshall Aid then funded these projects, as long as they were approved of by E.R.P. administrators, either locally or in Washington.

Part and parcel of the advisor’s role was the insistence that Britain gave priority to imported goods from U.S. owned companies, from North, Central and South America. This had the threefold effect of: (1) increasing the profits of U.S. companies; (2) restricting or stopping European capitalists from importing goods from other parts of the world, including their colonial possessions; (3) preparing the way for European colonial possessions to be taken over by the U.S.A and its economic interests. An example of this is the almost complete replacement of bananas from the West Indies by bananas from U.S. owned plantations in, say, Columbia. Over the next twenty years or so, the Americans dismembered the British Empire bit-by-bit. First, the American imperialists took over a number of islands in the West Indies, and then they followed this up by a gradual takeover of both the economic and political allegiance of such openly capitalist states of the British Empire as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Conditions were also set in the Marshall Plan which insisted that the British economy should be totally open to U.S. investment companies. This too had a threefold effect: (1) it meant these companies had access to skilled or trained labour which was cheaper than U.S. labour. (2) It would provide the competition that would keep down wages in the U.S.A. (3) and to top it all, the British economy itself would be open to U.S. financial domination.

The U.S. government insisted that there must be free trade not only between the U.S. and European states, such as Britain, receiving Marshall Aid, but also between these European states themselves. However, the U.S. reserved the right to veto, if they decided it was not in the interests of the U.S., trade deals between recipient states themselves or other non-receiving European countries. In essence, this meant that the U.S. decided what each European economy produced and to what extent.

This was not how the Marshall Plan was presented to the general public of Britain and the rest of Europe. The plan was portrayed as a grand project for economic recovery, defence of democracy, economic prosperity and peace in Europe. The British population as a whole were subjected to a propaganda campaign, orchestrated in the U.S.A., but carried through by their fawning sycophants, the Labour government, the Conservative Party and the mass media here. It was no different in other countries of Europe under the sway of the U.S.A., it was a case of “if you tell a lie often enough and long enough, and crowd out other views, most people will believe it”. The clamour for the Marshall Aid cash by the authorities and mass media made it an almost treasonable offence for anyone in Britain to speak against it and point out the pitfalls.

Between 1947 and 1951 the Marshall Plan funnelled $3294M into Britain for agreed projects. The money given to West Germany for agreed projects during this same period was $1448M. Although Britain received over 2.27 times more money than West Germany, the agreed projects undertaken by each country were very different. In the case of Britain, as with France which received $2296M, and Holland which received $1128M, the main body of the money was to be spent on projects aimed at re-taking former colonies in South East Asia. When any of this money was spent in Britain it was generally used to re-equip, feed and the pay the armed forces, and develop weaponry, e.g. jet fighters and bombers. None of the money received by Britain went to pay for scientific research aimed at British industrial development as this would have led to the re-equipping of industry with British made capital goods, e.g. machinery. In West Germany it was the complete opposite. Agreed projects undertaken with Marshall Plan money were aimed at the total regeneration of the economy. U.S finance was used for the replacement of broken infrastructure of West Germany, the encouragement of research and development and re-equipping industry with new machinery, but not the re-arming of the country.

Germany, like Japan now had no colonies and was therefore not a competitor for the U.S. capitalism in that area. This was a deciding factor in the reasoning which led to West Germany being singled out to be the industrial powerhouse of Western Europe. Investments and goods of both food and fuel flowed in, followed up by loans to regenerate mining, heavy industry, manufacture and communication infrastructure. West Germany received: In 1948/49, $510M; 1949/50, $438M; 1950/51, $500M; a cumulative total of $1.448B. Unlike other countries in receipt of Marshall Aid, Germany has a leftover fund still in existence which amounts to many billions of Euros and is being used to this day.

In the interests of U.S. industry and the German Industrial Recovery Program, financial restrictions were applied to investment in most of British steel, engineering and chemical manufacturing and primary industries. Britain was told that it had to export, but it must continue to use only its existing plant/machinery and not invest in developing newer products. The 1945/51 Labour government not only accepted this condition but used all means at its disposal (including many trade union officials) to exhort the working population to work harder, for longer hours, while enduring a wage freeze. The outcome of this policy of restricted investment in research and development was that, 15 years ‘down the line’, Britain had very little to offer in regards steel, engineering and chemical manufacture. This was in stark contrast with the re-industrialisation of West Germany and Japan produced through the agency of the Marshal Plan and other American investments. Thus, the ‘Marshalisation’ process could do no other than lead to real competitive difficulties for British based industry.

We may ask ourselves, with such harsh conditions, why on earth did the British financial ruling elite accept the Marshall Plan, and what did they think was in it for them? This question can be answered when we examine the actions of the Labour government.

The Labour government embarked on a policy which, it was hoped, would lead to the retrieval of the British financial elite’s pre-WW2 colonial possessions, i.e. a re-vamped imperialism. With their greed focused on the retrieval of colonial possessions, the financial elite and their political representatives had little regard for any further technological developments in home-based industry other than weapons manufacture.

On the domestic front, the Marshall Plan process restricted the import of scrap iron and steel into Britain and diverted it to West Germany. The first to feel the effect of this action was the large British ship-building industry. This industry almost immediately went into a downturn, and over the next twenty years died a death of a thousand cuts. With modern plant, West Germany resumed shipbuilding in 1950 and gradually took over as the main shipbuilders of Europe. Now, and only for strategic reasons, the only remaining shipbuilding left in Britain is warship construction. As we now know, shipbuilding was only the first case of the fate that awaited manufacturing all over Britain. Whether it was shoe-making in Northampton, engineering and textiles in Leicester, steel moulding in Sheffield, motor cycle production in Coventry, coal mining in England, Scotland and Wales, or any other industry in any other town we care to name, manufacture that was British-based and owned domestically got the chop.

Britain was one the world’s leading makers of machines and consumer goods. The general process of production ran as follows. In the first place, machine tools were manufactured by other machine tools. These machine tools in turn produced specialised machinery that produced consumer goods. Lastly, the specialised machinery produced the consumer goods. One by one the machinery in each of these sectors became outdated and new machines had to be imported mainly from the US, Germany and Japan. Through this lack of investment, consumers were moved on to buy the more reliable goods made in Germany, Japan and France. With the arrival of containerisation and the access to the cheap labour of the Far East, financiers in the City of London and New York invested in the Far East, and goods began flow in from China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, etc. This pursuit of maximum profit turned a substantial part of Britain’s economy into a warehouse one. The end product of this process meant that if any company sought to continue producing consumer goods, they had either to search for cheaper and cheaper labour abroad, or they had to import cheaper and cheaper labour into Britain.

The British-based industrialists played a large part in their own demise. Their mixed feelings towards the British working class, feelings that ranged from fear to contempt, played havoc with their reasoning powers. Because the financial and landed elite also feared the solidarity the working class, the British manufacturers, with their misguided beliefs, thought they were together as one. Whether any of the British-based manufacturers were astute enough to foresee what the future had in store for them, we may never know. What is known, though, is that when their firms shut down, many of them turned to the importation of goods and used known contacts to distribute them.

The process of de-industrialisation in Britain and the dysfunctional society that followed in its wake had its roots in the acceptance of the conditions attached to the U.S.A.’s Marshal Aid Plan by the three main parliamentary political parties in the in 1948.

 

Society, Post World War Two.

Immediately after WW2, internally, there was a new impetus for large scale nationalisation of basic industries, essential to the others. There were a number of reasons why, at this time, each nationalisation took place. Firstly, the manufacturing capitalists wanted a reliable energy supply and a transportation system subsidised by state funds. Secondly, the private sector capitalists and the banks hadn’t wanted to be involved with such a big cash outlay in industries that had been chronically underfunded and not profitable for years. Thirdly, many workers employed in these basic industries had been led to believe, by the Labour Party in particular, that nationalisation was part of the gradual change to a more just society. This last reason given for nationalisation was typical of the reformist illusions being propagated at the time. Following nationalisation, and then rationalisation process at public expense, these industries provided cheap raw materials, energy and transport.

The workers had been promised a better life after the war. The wartime political climate was such that the great majority of those who were in armed forces were demanding good housing and a free health service after the war. The men and women in the armed forces had grown used to a greatly expanded access to healthcare and saw how it could benefit themselves and families in civilian life. Not wanting open civil strife at the time, the ruling elite stepped back from a possible confrontation, and these demands were to some extent, met. At the 1945 general election all three main conventional political parties endorsed the Beveridge Report and promised a health service available to all. Other factors at this time were the existence of an alternative social system, the planned economy of the USSR, and large Communist Parties throughout most of Europe. N.B. Although appearing quite stable after WW2, the USSR’s economy had built-in social contractions that were antagonistic. These contradictions would play out badly for the working-class, not only in the USSR but world-wide.

One of the main reasons that a Labour Party government was elected in 1945 was because the majority of those in the armed forces cast their vote for the party they thought would implement a free health service and build good housing. The National Health Service (NHS) Act was passed in 1946. Due to stalling operations from the likes of Herbert Morrison within the Parliamentary Labour Party and objections by British Medical Council (BMA) it wasn’t implemented for some time. However, mounting pressure from outside parliament forced the Labour Party cabinet within parliament to allow the Health Minister Bevan to make the NHS a fact in 1948.

The Labour government, and then, the Conservative one elected in 1951, introduced, for a time, relatively decent social housing and a health service. Even here, though, we find these services run by a capitalist bureaucracy. The evidence of history shows even though they stepped back on the social front in housing and health, the ruling elite were in no mood to give any ground up on other fronts. The British state’s large-scale involvement in social housing, introduced by Labour was in the main carried on by both Conservatives and Labour governments and kept in place until the late 1970s. This is when the effects of large-scale unemployment really began to be felt nationwide. No power, no social housing!

Until the late1950s those owning the British economy, affected by internal restrictions and reduced access to the many economies in the world were forced to invest in Britain. In short, internally the working population had the power to demand a better life. Though it was forced into a position of have a relatively healthy workforce, this wasn’t a total disadvantage to the employers, as a healthy workforce was more productive.

 

External Conditions Externally, restrictions were imposed by force on UK businesses by the USA and the USSR, though for different reasons, that is, the ruling class of the USA wished to dominate where British business once dominated. Not having the ‘where with all’ to resist either, the ruling elite of Britain naturally sided with USA in the hope of better times to come. The USSR then became the ‘bugbear’ as it denied British capital access to economies of East and Central Europe under its influence. Soon after the end of WW2 there began a Cold War in Europe, Greece being the exception, where there was a hot war. Over much of the Far East there were also a number of hot wars. With money supplied by the US through the Marshall Aid, the armed forces of Britain were able to hold onto Hong Kong. The Labour government, using US Marshall Aid, pursued bloody wars in Greece, Burma, Vietnam, Malaya, Sarawak, Korea, in an attempt to make them safe havens for investment opportunities. In 1956 the Labour Party backed a Conservative government’s invasion of Egypt when they attempted to retrieve the assets of investors in the Suez Canal. By eventually regaining their hold of Singapore and the surrounding territory of what is now called Malaysia, Britain’s ruling elite were able to regain more of their assets and begin again to rake in super-profits by exporting capital there.

Although problematic for some time, by 1960 very visible signs were beginning to emerge that all was not well with the so-called socialist countries in Europe and the USSR. The planned economy was ceasing to exist. Collectivised farming began to be dismantled. State industries started being handed over to senior managers to be run as separate competitive units. There had been open revolt in East Germany, Poland and especially Hungary in 1956, which was put down by the armed might of the USSR. Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, pleaded the case for peaceful co-existence and peaceful competition. These first signs of decay and weakness were not missed by the ruling elite in Britain, hence their growing confidence in a global future.

 

External to Internal The banking fraternity in Britain saw the opportunity to invest in industry in the Far East. Why invest in the British coal and railway industries if the industrial base of Britain could be shifted abroad? The railways and the coal mines were the first to feel the return in the financial elite’s confidence. Under the cover of the government’s Beeching Report for British Railways and the appointment of Alfred Robens (Labour Party member) as Chairman of the National Coal Board, a large scale shut-down of the two industries began. This shut-down was carried out in the name of modernisation, but essentially the ruling elite was starting to divest itself of industries they decided were no longer strategically needed, i.e. in case of war with the USSR. Thus, we see the internal devastation of a substantial part of a co-ordinated rail infrastructure and the primary industry it served when conditions changed externally.

 

Emigration to, and Immigration from Former Colonies Another interaction between the internal and external was the beginnings of mass immigration into Britain and mass emigration out. An inward migration from the ‘new Commonwealth’ of India, Pakistan and the West Indies and an outward migration to the ‘old Commonwealth’ of Australia, New Zealand and Canada. As said above, we were in a period where there was hardly any surplus labour in Britain, and this was very advantageous, economically, for working people.

Emigration to the ‘old Commonwealth’ countries only exacerbated the labour supply situation for employers in Britain. The USA, however, was making inroads into these ‘old Commonwealth’ countries through investment, and also the emigration from other European countries sponsored by US interests. A case in point is Australia. In this period, it was not only receiving investment of US capital, but through the US financed International Refugee Organisation (IRO) it also received the greater majority of its emigrants. The loyalty of these emigrants tended to lay with their ‘saviour’, the USA rather than with Britain. This was something the ruling elite in Britain decided should to some extent be counteracted. To this end, we find the ruling elite in Britain encouraging emigration from Britain.

The shortage of labour favoured the workforce in Britain, and this did not sit well with the employers. So, the British state encouraged the immigration into Britain of a workforce that the ruling elite had previously also deployed to its colonies. For example, people from the Indian subcontinent had been sent as indentured labourers to Southern and Central Africa, and now they were immigrating to Britain. When these workers arrived from the ‘New Commonwealth’ into Britain they tended to be steered into lowly, unskilled jobs. The employment of immigrants meant that, for a time, the employers could keep their wages bill down and they did not have to invest in new and safer equipment. This situation could not last, and eventually, many of the immigrants joined the unions and fought for better conditions.

 

Period 2 1960 to 1975

Housing From around 1960 until roughly 1975, because the internal restriction of a working population having the power to demand a better life still existed, and the industry still operating needed a healthy workforce, so a social housing programme and health services continued. However, the new stock of social housing, though still being constructed, took a downturn qualitatively and environmentally, with the introduction of high rise blocks of flats and terraced houses with small gardens or none at all.

 

The Social Aspect of Immigration As regards immigration from the ‘new Commonwealth’, different governments protested to Britain’s existing working population that they were against more immigration. The reality was different, as the lawyers who drew up legislation in parliament continued to fix loopholes in the law for its continuance. The difference in this period though, was that the immigrants were more socially varied. In addition to the unskilled, many came inculcated with the ideas of small business. Especially encouraged were those immigrants who were educated in matters of commerce. The latter section of immigrants, were seen by Britain’s ruling elite as a counterweight to draw the less skilled away from too much social contact with the locals, e.g. joining trade unions, etc.

In the political and economic sphere, those who developed their business interests and managed to attain wealth made inroads into establishment politics. Though the ruling elite in Britain hoped to co-opt them for its own purposes, these business people had their own agenda. Through their wealth and to keep hold of this growing wealth, they, with the help of contacts, established places of religious worship. Mosques and temples are not only places of worship but are social in nature. These places of worship, just as with churches, were institutions with priests who facilitated the continued dominance of the hierarchy of wealth.

Unlike many immigrants from the Indian subcontinent and the Eastern Mediterranean, who were mainly of peasant origin (with small business mentalities), most West Indian immigrants had a history of wage work and spoke English as their everyday language. This time the ruling elite of Britain could not rely on substantial numbers of people with an inclination towards business to dominate the main body of immigrants. Always needing an element from within the immigrant population to exert control over the main body, the ruling elite turned to those already criminally inclined to supply the necessaries. With this in mind, alongside those honestly seeking work, a blind eye was shown to the entry of violent criminals into Britain. The people of the West Indies have had the roughest deal of all, because the havoc that criminal gangs plus drug peddling can wreak upon the those around them.

 

Imperialism Re-Asserts Itself The external restrictions on the ruling elite of Britain, however, were becoming fewer. They still had had to accept the influence of the USA in the ‘Old Commonwealth’ countries of Australia and New Zealand. However, the US government had used the military and the Moslem fundamentalist mullahs to violently overthrow the non-aligned Indonesian government which had emerged after WW2. Indonesia was now a client state of the US. Together with those states around the Pacific Rim already under US dominance, this situation opened up further opportunities for British bankers to invest in cheap raw materials and cheap labour. With the Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and now Indonesia in their grasp, many people and great swathes of territory around the Pacific Ocean were open to exploitation and the grand scale by world capitalism.

In addition, the rulers of the USSR and those states under their influence in East and Central Europe had now de-socialised industry and de-collectivised agriculture. These so-called socialist states no longer had planned economies, socialist or otherwise. Mining, factories and agriculture were still supposed to be under a form of state ownership but these enterprises had been hived off into an anarcho-syndicalist type of self-management units. These units were on paper run by all in the ‘enterprise,’ but were actually under the control of senior managers. These states were now totally controlled by a self-serving authoritarian bureaucratic elite, very similar to that in Yugoslavia, where an elite lived off the profits syphoned from industry and agriculture.

As time went on and the situation of the ordinary working people deteriorated in the USSR and their client states in East and Central Europe, goods which form the necessaries of life were increasingly supplied by gangsters on the black market. It was only a matter of time before this closed system would fall into total disrepair and lose any credibility as an alternative economic system.

With the world opening up further to them, British banks began a further increase in investment abroad, with a corresponding reduction of investment in Britain. These were the initial stages of the ‘flight of capital’, a process that would engulf Britain. Though there was a reduction in investment and a loss of jobs in hot-spots, particularly around cities like Liverpool, Glasgow and Newcastle, in many areas there were still some jobs to be had.

 

Period 3. 1975 to present

From around 1975 onwards, British banks invested even more substantial amounts abroad. This process can be understood if we realise that capitalism in the 1970s was faced with the problem of a falling rate of profit. This was the result of relatively low unemployment which had caused rising wage rates and profits diverted into the ‘social wage’ (housing, health etc.) in response to workers’ militancy. The reaction of the gurus of capitalism, e.g. Milton Friedman and the Chicago School, was to advocate the relocation of industry to areas of cheap labour.

As a result, this period saw mass closure of industry and mass unemployment for many in Britain. Social house building was greatly reduced and the council house stock was sold off after 1980. With regards to mass immigration (also aimed at reducing wages and thus increasing profits), the government still pursued a propaganda offensive which made out they were against it, but, as before, they left rules in place which facilitated it.

Meanwhile, the so-called socialist third of the world of the USSR, Eastern Europe and China, which had once been a rival economic system, had by now decayed even further. In the USSR, for example, the bureaucrats partnered up with criminals and facilitated a shortage-induced black-market economy. Observing the obvious signs of the decline of the economic, political and social competition, British finance capital began to move to parts of the world once shut to them. Now, another sizeable chunk of the world began to be available again for exploitation. Thus, the conditions were set for the export of capital, especially towards China, the Far East and to a lesser extent Eastern Europe, where cheap labour and high profits abounded. At the same time, the lack of an alternative social system meant capitalism no longer felt the need to invest in the social wage to prevent working people from aspiring towards socialism

Changes in the social housing sector could be seen as a barometer, being one of the direct casualties, as social housing reflects the relative strength or weakness of the working class. Council housing immediately after WW2 was mostly semi-detached and produced to relatively high standards. These standards declined steadily but then we reached the period of the 1980s onwards when social housing was no longer being built but instead being sold off and private landlords and developers were given free rein to make a killing from exorbitant rents and house prices.

Due to the economic dominance of the banks, we live in an imperialist state that has been made almost post-industrial. Britain has become a place where most goods are either assembled or imported. It is a place where much of the highly technical light and heavy industry has been exported to authoritarian states, states which can supply cheap, non-unionised labour.

 

Mass Immigration from Countries in the European Union (EU)

From the introduction of the Social Contract in 1975 the Labour Party and the great majority of full-time trade union officials have co-operated with the de-industrialisation process. Consequently, these organisations have worked together to disorganise any actions which could jeopardise their stance. Due to this activity by the Labour Party and the majority of full-time trade union officials, the working class’s morale has been undermined, working condition have worsened and pay has stagnated. The employers and their political agents, never knowing the limits of exploitation, have introduced conditions of work detrimental to the working class in Britain, e.g. zero-hours contracts. A contributing factor to these worsening conditions is that, being in the European Union (E.U.), as British capitalism has been able to import people from Eastern Europe who are prepared to accept these conditions because of the bandit politicians and dire economic situation in their own countries.

Mass immigration is one of the causes of the loss of workers’ rights in Britain, rights which have been fought for by past generations. Mass immigration is what the ruling class want, and so all the political parties that cater for the needs of capitalism support it. Some, like the Lib-Dems, blatantly support mass immigration, while the Conservatives camouflage their support for it. All factions in the Labour Party support mass immigration but some camouflage it and others don’t. The official ‘left’ whether in Labour Party or not, is now comprised almost totally of middle-class left liberals, and by their support for open borders and mass immigration, they in fact show their support for the ruling class. The official ‘left’ in politics, now for the most part, don’t even bother to put on a show of supporting working class needs.

Other political groupings who call themselves ‘left’, by advocating open borders, shows they have lost any real interest the working class. This could have allowed the likes of UKIP and the Alt-Right to get away with pretending to defend the interests of working people. However, these organisations are hampered their need to please the capitalists who give them financial support, so they fight shy of proposing policies which would actually improve the lot of the working-class. The promotion of these political groupings of the ‘right’ are part of the pretence that it’s possible to switch from present neo-liberal, neo conservative form of capitalism to a type of national capitalism which would revive an industrial base. However, the vast majority of working people have not allied themselves with the right, politically; they have simply adopted fatalism towards all politics. With no working-class organisation, they feel a sense of powerlessness in the face of the attacks on their wages and conditions, communities, housing, health service. The Brexit vote offered a rare opportunity for us to participate in decision making and it was used by many working people to express their rejection of career politicians and mass immigration.

The Role of Common Cause If a political organisation of the working class is to get its necessary message to the rest of the class, regarding the ‘free markets’ (a euphemism for the complete domination of finance capital) desire for the movement of labour to supplement the free movement of capital, then where should we begin? Though thought useful by some, getting involved with the ins and outs of capitalist politics is of little or no use to a working class political organisation. Many have wasted their time before us in participating in long drawn out debate about how to change the mind-set of the Labour Party, or the 57 varieties of the liberal Left.

However, it is important to expose the Labour Party for what it is. Working-class people who live in areas which have been subject to Labour Party control for decades, know from bitter experience what they can expect from career politicians. Campaigners for the NHS are currently seeing at a local level that many Labour politicians are supporting the Sustainability and Transformation Plan of the government which will result in further privatisation of the health care sector.

Exposing the role of the various hews of the phoney left/social democrats, is important, however, it is more important to develop a viable alternative which promotes the interests of the working class. Providing help to those in struggle against the system is a known way of coming into contact with a potential audience. However, unless those whose original struggle it was can themselves become self-sufficient, the main workload will be borne by the helper and that often means burnout. Past masters of the art of helping those in struggle, such as the Scottish educator John Maclean, knew that help was no good without those in struggle being educated in the science of Marxism.

The focus should be on working in working class communities and workplaces. However, we should not view these areas through rose tinted spectacles. Many working people live on estates where their lives are made a misery by the activity of an increasing lumpen, criminal section. In all areas, no matter what the ethnicity, this is the case. This has been encouraged by the ruling class and, if allowed to continue unchallenged, could become the dominant force in these areas. Instead, Common Cause can see its role as bringing working people together to fight for their communities and against both the lumpen element and the petty bourgeois landlords and businessmen who are exploiting those who are now at their mercy.

It would be so much better would it be if working class communities were linked together. In the campaign for the NHS, for instance, one can see people fighting determinedly to save their local hospitals but they only come together on marches. Permanent links need to be made. The ruling class worked hard to destroy working class solidarity by introducing laws against secondary action. It is time to find creative ways of circumventing the laws and linking workers together, outside of the stifling control of trade union officials. At the same time, the ruling class seeks to destroy working class communities and we need to overcome this process through education, activism and organisation.

This analysis has used a dialectical approach to show the process by which the capitalist system has adapted to the falling rate of profit of the post war period. The rise in wages has been counteracted by the export of capital to low wage countries. This was later combined with mass immigration to reduce wages, conditions and the social wage in Britain. Throughout we can see the way the balance of opposing forces – capitalist and working class – has shifted. The role of Common Cause is to challenge social democracy by exposing its role in this process and to support working class communities in their struggle against lumpen elements and in defence of the social wage. This will only be sustainable if working people themselves are given the tools they need to understand the system they are up against, by introducing them to dialectical materialism and showing them how to use it in practice. This article has shown how applying Marxist theory to events of the last 70 years gives us the ability to challenge the system at grass roots level.

How the Alt Right and Phoney Left are trying to discredit socialism

How the Alt Right and Phoney Left are trying to discredit socialism

The 1960s saw the rise of the Civil Rights movement, Women’s Liberation movement and national liberation struggles throughout the world. In response, the capitalist system, via the CIA in the US, developed the hippie ‘counter culture’ and identity politics. The logical extension of this has been Political Correctness and the liberal fascism of today. The main aim has been to divide people based on race, sex, sexuality and anything else that prevents people understanding class struggle. The white working class is actually being demonised as racists for rejecting the mass immigration which is threatening hard won workers’ rights and standards of living.

Today, in reaction to Political Correctness, we are seeing the rise of the Alt Right. If you type Political Correctness into the search engine of your computer you will be diverted onto Alt Right videos and websites. Here, anti Political Correctness is linked to the ideas of the free market. Again, there is no mention of the fact that, for example, mass immigration is being promoted by capitalism in its own interests. The free movement of labour, championed by the Phoney Left, actually produces non-unionised, cheap labour with poor working conditions and no class solidarity.

In other words, the ruling view is that if you are against Political Correctness you are necessarily anti-socialist. Cosmopolitanism and liberal fascism have been re-named by the Alt Right as ‘Cultural Marxism’. This phrase has the effect of linking Marxism with the dogmatic and dictatorial approach of left political groups who are completely focused on identity politics – for instance on sexuality.

The ideas of Political Correctness have their origins in the Frankfurt School. This was a group of academics who came to the US in 1935 and promoted Critical Theory which argued that ideology was the principle obstacle to human liberation. Along with this came the idea that multi-culturalism and Political Correctness could be used as a way of changing people’s ideology. There ideas were taken up by US universities which ran courses on, for example, Post Stucturalism and African American studies. This ideology originated from the so-called Neo-Marxist view that the working class is no longer relevant.

These neo-Marxists are not Marxists, but a continuation of a long tradition of academics perverting Marxism in the interests of the preservation of the capitalist system. Marcuse, one of the leading members of the Frankfurt School, for instance, was a Research Director for the OSS (the Office of Strategic Studies), the precursor to the CIA. An important component of Marxism is to analyse the class basis of ideas and ideologies. Since these academics are employed by the state, they can never challenge the system in a revolutionary sense or they would lose their jobs. Instead, they promote pseudo-Left ideas such as political correctness. In its turn, these ideas are used by the Alt Right to label political correctness as Marxism.

When examining any of these neo-Marxist ideas we need to remember that Marx wrote specifically in the interests of the working class, which he saw as the progressive class in society and the one which would overthrow the capitalist class. What all neo-Marxists have in common is the denial of class struggle. Instead, they divert the focus onto identity politics. This results in black versus white, women versus men struggles etc. This directly serves the interests of capitalism because it divides the working class, instead of uniting it in the fight for socialism.

If we are to get to the truth of this we need to look at what Marxism is. Marxism is the scientific study of economics, society and history using Dialectical Materialism. Dialectical, because it focuses on change and contradictions, and Materialism, because it deals with the real world and not the ideas people may invent about it. Marx focuses on understanding the relationships between classes in society and uncovering the ways in which the ruling class uses politics, culture and ideas as a means to dominate the working class.

Open veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano

I recently came across this book about the exploitation of Latin America throughout the centuries. Although it was written in 1971, it is still relevant to an understanding of the recent history of Latin America and indeed of all the former colonial countries. Here are some quotations from the book:

‘The division of labour among nations is that some specialise in winning and others in losing. Our part of the world, known today a Latin America, was precocious: it has specialised in losing ever since those remote times when Renaissance Europeans ventured across the ocean and buried their teeth in the throats of the Indian civilisations. Centuries passed, and Latin America perfected its role. ….It continues to exist at the service of others’ needs, as a source and reserve of oil and iron, of copper and meat, of fruit and coffee, the raw materials and foods destined for rich countries which profit more from consuming them than Latin America does from producing them. The taxes collected by the buyers are much higher than the prices received by the sellers; and after all, as Alliance for Progress coordinator Covey T. Oliver said in July 1968, to speak of fair prices is a “medieval” concept, for we are in the era of free trade.’

Galeano’s is a Marxist analysis. He explains how Latin America’s raw materials were first used in the process of primitive accumulation at the beginning of Capitalism. He quotes Marx from Chapter 3 of volume 1 of Capital:

‘The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation.’

Galeano produces a vast amount of facts and figures showing how Latin America was, and continues to be, systematically stripped of its wealth.

Another key theme of the book is that as Capitalism develops, the inequalities which are the inevitable result of this system are exaggerated on a global scale when it is exported to the under developed countries. As Marx puts it:

‘All the destructive phenomena which unlimited competition gives rise to within one country are reproduced in more gigantic proportions on the world market. If the free-traders cannot understand how one nation can grow rich at the expense of another, we need not wonder, since these same gentlemen also refuse to understand how within one country one class can enrich itself at the expense of another.’ Karl Marx “On the Question of Free Trade,” in the Poverty of Philosophy.

Galeano shows how ‘free trade’ is used to benefit the rich countries at the expense of the poor. The IMF and the World Bank force countries into massive debt with the West and advocate complete freedom for foreign investment in Latin America.

‘In all Latin America, the system produces much less than the necessary monetary demand, and inflation results from this structural impotence. Yet the IMF, instead of attacking the causes of the production apparatus’s insufficient supply, launches its cavalry against the consequences, crushing even further the feeble consumer power of the internal market: in these lands of hungry multitudes, the IMF lays the blame for inflation at the door of excessive demand. Its stabilisation and development formulas have not only failed to stabilise or develop; they have tightened the external stranglehold on these countries, deepened the poverty of the dispossessed masses and hastened economic and financial denationalisation in the name of the sacred principles of free trade, free competition and freedom of movement of capital.’

Throughout the book we see how first the Spanish, then the British and finally the US capitalists have wielded their power against Latin America. Today the IMF and the World Bank, both in the pocket of the US, also control much of the social policy of the region.

Who are the Liberal Left?

Throughout recent history, whenever the capitalist state has generated revolt from working people it reacts to that rebellion. The forms which reaction takes have been many and varied. The use of the army or police is at one extreme but this method is both costly and runs the risk of creating more political opposition. Instead, the ruling class prefers more subtle and cheaper methods of control. There is one particular group in society who provide invaluable assistance to the ruling class in preventing revolution and their removal from power. This group was known by Marx as the petty bourgeoisie. In Marx’s time they were the peasants and small business people, shop keepers, officials etc. Today this group contains bureaucrats, academics and the self employed. They have always wavered between the working class and the ruling class in their allegiance, depending on where they feel strength lies. At times when the working class is strong, the petty bourgeoisie will join it. At other times, they will support the ruling class.

The leadership of the Liberal left is often dominated by people from the petty bourgeoisie. They can be identified by certain ways of thinking and behaving. Firstly, they are careerist. The struggle of most of them for existence takes the form of a career. They aim to advance to leadership positions and use such tactics as purposely withholding information, glossing over weaknesses, pinning mistakes on others and so on.

This intellectual pretension also takes the form of disdain for the masses. This was clearly expressed in their vitriolic anger post Brexit, directed at the working class who voted to leave, having had enough of a banker-dominated EU and its open borders policy. Many on the left poured scorn on the working class voters, seeing themselves as the intellectual elite of society.

The petty bourgeoisie influence the method of struggle. They favour symbolic protest and appeals to the rationality of the powers that be, and not the practical class struggle of of the masses. They favour individualism, rather than class discipline, appealing for personal freedom rather than an end to the exploitation of one class by another.

This group is also wedded to idealism, rather than materialism. To them ideas come first, rather than the material world. This is a dangerous philosophy as we need to understand the realities of capitalism if we are to tackle it.

From the mid-nineteenth century reformism came to the rescue of capitalism. Trade union officials were bribed with the promise of a comfortable lifestyle, provided they did the job of the system and prevented a revolutionary situation from developing. Small concessions and reforms were used to give the working class the idea that the system could be gradually changed – as long as those with money were allowed to keep it.

Today identity politics and political correctness are doing a similar job for the system. The Liberal Left has divided the opposition into separate interests based on race, gender etc. It is ironic that many on the Liberal Left belong to parties with ‘worker’ and ‘socialist’ in their title. In fact, the working class does not exist for them and the fact that mass immigration is having a negative impact on working people is ignored and denied.

Once we realise the dangers posed by this particular group in society we can see how important it is to give working class people a voice and a chance to take the lead. At the moment they are being marginalised but anger is growing and it needs to be channelled into opposition to the capitalist state and its neo-liberal policies. In areas such as the NHS, working people have a lot to lose by the hidden move to an insurance-based system. These are the issues which need to be highlighted, along with exposing the way finance capital is directly benefiting from the austerity faced by working people.

The Truth about UKIP

UKIP advocates cutting the top rate of income tax. It wants the abolition of employers’ National Insurance contributions, which would hand bosses £50 billion. They advocate cutting 2 million public sector jobs and go even further than the Tories in their policies for dismantling the NHS. UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall was quoted as saying: ‘The very existence of the NHS stifles competition’. UKIP also calls for the removal of legislation protecting redundancy pay, holidays and overtime.

UKIP also supported the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and US. TTIP allows multinationals to sue elected governments. Where it has already been in force, dozens of legal actions have been taken by companies against governments on issues including mining, water and nuclear power.

However, the majority of those who vote for UKIP appear to be unaware of these policies. One YouGov poll found that 78% of UKIP voters supported public ownership of energy companies (compared to 68% of all voters); 73% wanted the railways renationalised (as against 66%); 50% advocated rent controls (versus 45%) and 40% wanted price controls on food, compared to 35% of all voters.

The vote for Brexit was a vote of protest by working people against the Establishment. Up until then, voting was seen by many as an irrelevance. In a YouGov poll in 2012, 58% said that ‘It doesn’t make any difference to my daily life who wins general elections these days – there’s very little difference between the main political parties’. The turnout in the Brexit vote showed that people felt this was a chance to influence events.

Clearly, the level of immigration is a key issue to people. They see its effects in their own communities, in the lowering of wages, pressures on housing, education and health. Whilst realising the state of the NHS is due to long term underfunding, it is no good trying to say that the rising population won’t add to the problem. By claiming that mass immigration should be welcomed, the liberal left have forced voters into the hands of UKIP. Instead of accepting that mass immigration is being used to bring down wages and conditions and divide communities, the liberal left continues to alienate working class people by denying the reality of their lives. It is time for a genuine alternative voice for working people.

Trump vs the neo-liberal establishment – a socialist analysis

The rise of Trump can be seen as an attempt by some of the US capitalist class to ameliorate the worst excesses of neo-liberalism. Marx pointed out that, left to its own devices, capitalism is self destructive. In the last few decades it has exported industry all over the Far East and south of the US border in a drive for super profits and to destroy the local working class. Just as Roosevelt did in the 30s, Trump is attempting to save capitalism from itself. He has seen the mayhem created in America’s cities by the open borders policies of previous administrations. The rate of deaths from drug abuse has climbed fastest amongst the white working class and not far behind, the black working class, both of which is increasingly marginalised in society, facing long term unemployment in ghost cities. He seems to be attempting to stop the export of jobs to Mexico by imposing tariffs. He is inviting trade unions back into the White House for the first time in decades.

Trump is no saviour of the US working class. He is a billionaire and will not be wanting to tax the super rich to improve social conditions for the working people. However, the fact that there is dissension within the capitalist class can be used to the advantage of the working class. It is preferable to the united neo-liberal front it has been faced with up to now. Trump is a loose cannon as far as the establishment is concerned – he is not abiding by their script.

How is the liberal left responding to this situation? It is showing its true colours. There has been mass hysteria against Trump’s so-called Muslim ban with marches in the streets widely reported in the mainstream media. This is the ‘left’ which has been almost silent about other US presidents, such as Obama who ordered drone strikes on individual ‘terrorist’ targets, often innocent people and their families.

This anti-Trump hysteria is serving two purposes. On the one hand, it diverts attention from other issues which are directly attacking the rights and interests of the British working class – the CETA trade deal which will give power to corporations to dictate terms to the government and the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS. On the other hand, it plays into the hands of the neo-liberal establishment which is keen to continue the open borders policy and mass immigration as a way to divide and rule and reduce wages and conditions for working people.

There are a couple of reasons why the liberal left behaves in the way it does. Firstly, they are doing what they feel is in their own interests. Many of them want to see complete freedom of movement preserved so that they are free to move to whatever country they want. They do not advocate the return of industry to the West because none of them work in industrial jobs. They are mostly from middle class backgrounds and have jobs in areas such as local government. Secondly, they have been self-brainwashed into the identity politics of race, gender, sexuality – this has come from the hippy counter culture of the US which was developed by the CIA in response to the rise of serious revolutionary groups such as the early Black Panthers. The growth of social media has allowed this brainwashing process to become a form of bullying and intimidation. This was seen in the UK in the post-Brexit period. Anyone who openly supported the Brexit vote was subjected to a torrent of abuse on Facebook and other social media, labelling them vile racists.

What should be the stance of socialists to Trump, Brexit etc.? We should attack policies which are anti-working class. This includes mass immigration where it is used to destroy workers’ rights and divide people. We should support policies which may be of benefit to the working class but with eyes open to the motives of Trump, UKIP etc. Trump is attempting to reign in the rampant neo-liberal capitalist orthodoxy which he feels will destroy the integrity of the US if allowed to continue. But his ‘America first’ policy is ‘American capitalism first’.

In the UK we need to oppose the privatisation of public services, including the NHS and CETA which will be used as a tool to further weaken workers’ rights and support re-nationalising key industries. But it is no use thinking the answer is the state capitalism of the immediate post war era. The system only makes concessions when it feels weak or under threat. The NHS came at a time when soldiers were returning who felt they had been fighting against fascism and for a better world than that of the 30s. As soon as the capitalism feels strong, it takes back these crumbs. The NHS will never be safe within a capitalist system and it can always be taken away from us until the workers rule themselves.

Why and how did neo-liberalism become the dominant ideology?

In the immediate post-War period the Soviet Union appeared to be providing an alternative system to capitalism. This meant that the governments of the West needed to provide the people with an increasing standard of living to show that capitalism was still a viable system. In Britain, the government was greatly in debt to the US which had provided lend lease by which Britain got commodities from the US during the war. When the debt had to be re-paid, the US forced Britain to give up its empire, thus opening up the parts of the world market previously excluded to the US.

In the 50s and 60s both the US and UK saw rising standards of living, full employment and a strong shop floor trade union movement. Concessions were made in the form of higher wages and improved working conditions. However, capitalism relies on a reserve army of the unemployed which can be used to discipline the labour force. In Europe in the 60s the labour shortage was overcome by importing people from North Africa into France, from Turkey into Germany, from India and the West Indies into Britain and in the US people were imported from Mexico. This also reduced the bargaining power of the trades unions.

Nevertheless, increased wages for the working class and the use of large chunks of the surplus made by capitalism in state investments such as housing and health were seen by the capitalist class as the erosion of their profits. The response of the ruling class was to reduce the power of labour. This was achieved primarily by the export of jobs. In Britain there were already 1 million unemployed by 1979. The Conservatives were able to use the slogan ‘Labour isn’t working’ in the election campaign.

In the 1980s Reagan and Thatcher were used as the front people by finance capital and big business to reverse the previous gains of working people through the mass unemployment, generated by the export of capital. The global proletariat has doubled since the 1970s. In fact, the reserve army is now global. The free movement of people and capital became a central tenet of the neo-liberal, free market ideology which supported the economic trends already taking place. Since the 70s neo-liberalism has been led by the wealthy, as a revolt against high wages. At the same time, finance capital in the form of the banks is active behind the scenes, increasing interest rates for the industrial sector which relies on credit. As interest rates rise, so does the rate of exploitation of labour. Wages are cut whilst production is speeded up. The dominance of finance capital was promoted in the 1960s under the Labour government of Harold Wilson. His favourable approach to finance capital directly led to the de-industrialisation of Britain. High interest rates ate into profits. Companies moved to Asia and the Pacific rim to increase their profits again.

In the post war era the social democratic, state intervention ideology was dominant. It was used to divert working people who may otherwise have demanded more power. Forms of socialism were being widely adopted throughout the world by people who were struggling to overthrow colonial regimes. This was the fear of the US and the rest of the capitalist world. Social democracy was used to prevent revolutionary ideas spreading in the west.

By the 1970s the change towards neo-liberalism had begun. The beginnings of neo-liberalism can be seen in the late 70s with the rise of the IMF as a tool to attack working people throughout the world. Third world countries were given loans by the IMF but these were linked to the introduction of pro-market policies and attacks on social spending.

Although economists such as Milton Friedmann and Friedrich Hyek became very influential, their ideas only became dominant because they supported the needs of capitalism at the time. Neo-liberal ideas have been increasingly dictating politics for the last 40 years. Privatising previously state-owned services, such as the NHS, is useful for the ruling class both in ideological and economic ways. It supports the idea that the state should lose its responsibilities for social reproduction (i.e. the money needed to reproduce the workforce) – instead workers should use their wages to pay for health, education and housing with little or no help from the state. At the same time, it offers opportunities to the private sector to profit from the privatisation of services.

The neo-liberalism of the right is echoed by the political correctness and single issue, identity politics of the left. Both support the completely free movement of people with no borders. The left is using ideas of multi-culturalism to support the idea of unlimited immigration – this goes along with the needs of capitalism. It erodes the living standards of working people and divides the working class into sectional interests, making any opposition weaker. Bush supported the invasion of Iraq by saying the US was bringing freedom to the rest of the world. What he meant was the freedom to sell your labour (having been deprived of your means of subsistence) and no barriers to foreign investment.

Today we must not only oppose the neo-liberal ideology of the right but also the liberal left’s ideology of identity politics, dividing people on lines of sex, race, disability etc. with no mention of class. We are at a key moment. Left to its own devices, capitalism undermines its own interests. It will continue to hit working people to such an extent that it will generate opposition. We are already seeing this reaction to free market economics, with its proliferation of low paid jobs at the same time as the rich are making obscene amounts, in the Brexit vote and Trump’s victory. People were voting against the neo-liberal establishment but with no socialist alternative to vote for. The threat now is that social democratic parties will try and come to capitalism’s rescue. The Labour Party in Britain is one such party. It will claim to be the saviour of the people whilst in opposition, but history shows that once in power, its policies will be dictated by the system it upholds. Concessions may be made but power will remain in the same hands.

Recent events have shown that people realise the system is in crisis. They need a genuine alternative with the interests of the working class, and not the ruling class, dictating its direction.