Friday, September 29, 2023

UK Workers up with Capitalism continue to put


‘Companies in the UK’s private sector have been downsizing their workforce at the fastest rate since the global financial crisis, apart from the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, as output fell in September, according to data published by S&P Global.

The latest flash S&P Global Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) figure for the UK slipped to 46.8, down from 48.6 in August, and reached a 32-month low. The reading was well below the 50-mark, which separates growth from contraction, and lower than economists expected, S&P said.

“The disappointing PMI survey results for September mean a recession is looking increasingly likely in the UK,” Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, warned.

“The steep fall in output signaled by the flash PMI data is consistent with GDP contracting at a quarterly rate of over 0.4%, with a broad-based downturn gathering momentum to hint at few hopes of any imminent improvement.”

The British jobs market is facing an “abrupt turnaround,” prompting companies to shed staff at the fastest pace since the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, excluding the pandemic, S&P said.

“A major concern in the inflation outlook has been wage growth, but with the survey now signalling the sharpest fall in employment since 2009, wage bargaining power is being eroded rapidly,” Williamson added.

Overall, private sector business activity in the UK fell at the fastest rate since March 2009 as the cost-of-living crisis and surging borrowing costs dented demand, S&P concluded.

The British economy will shrink in both 2023 and 2024, The Guardian reported citing a study by the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).

According to the report, persistent inflation, falling real incomes of low-income households, and a shortage of workers will result in a 0.3% drop in the country’s gross domestic product (GPD) this year, and a further 0.2% backslide next year.

The UK won’t be in recession all of next year, but the recovery will be held back by higher-than-expected inflation and in response, the Bank of England will need to keep interest rates higher for longer,” PIIE president Adam Posen told The Guardian, commenting on the report.

Posen, who used to work on the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, noted that the UK economy is also still weighed down by the after-effects of Brexit and will likely suffer from planned cuts to government spending next year.

Last week, the central bank refrained from hiking interest rates for the first time in nearly two years after a surprise drop in inflation in August to 6.7% amid weaker growth in food prices and a reduction in accommodation and air travel costs. However, UK inflation remains the highest among G7 economies.

Posen warned that more rate hikes are possible in the coming months if inflation doesn’t slow further. Karen Dynan, a co-author of the report, mirrored the institute’s warning and said it does not apply to the UK alone.

While inflation appears to be receding in most countries, it remains decidedly above central bank targets. As a result, most central banks will need to keep their policy rates high over the coming year, with the resulting tight financial conditions holding back demand and slowing economic activity,” she stated.’

*How big an obstacle are ideas about ‘human nature’ to the spread of socialist ideas?*

 WSM Meeting today at 1930 (1830ut) on ZOOM.

Speaker: Howard Moss

Thursday, September 28, 2023

New audio uploads

 The following talks have been added to the Audio section of the website,.

‘Enough is Enough’ is Not Enough – by Alan Johnstone, 3rd February 2023

War! What is it Good For? – by David Coggan, 17th February 17 2023

What’s in a Name? – by Glenn Morris, 24th February 2023

The Rewards of Competition – by Richard Field, 17th March 2023

Sustainability Before and After the Revolution – by John Cumming, 24th March 2023

Why Should the Earth Be Privately Owned? – by Adam Buick, 19th May 2023

Degrowth – by Paul Bennett, 26th May 2023

Statistics – How They Are Used In Capitalism and How They Could Be Used in Socialism – by Richard Botterill, 7th July 2023

Work: Paid and Unpaid – by Howard Moss, 23rd July 2023

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

No such thing as level playing field under Capitalism


A new analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows that top U.S. CEOs saw their total compensation rise by 1,209% between 1978 and 2022 while typical worker pay rose just 15%—a chasm that is fuelling the United Auto Workers strike and other labour actions across the country.

EPI's Josh Bivens and Jori Kandra found that the CEOs of the 350 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. made 344 times more than a typical worker last year. In 1965, by contrast, the CEO-to-typical-worker pay gap was 21 to 1.

"Top CEO compensation grew roughly 28.1% faster than stock market growth during this period and far eclipsed the slow 15.3% growth in a typical worker’s annual compensation," Bivens and Kandra noted in their report was released late last week.

The analysis came as the UAW expanded its strikes against General Motors and Stellantis, accusing the auto giants of refusing to engage seriously with the union in contract negotiations.

UAW president Shawn Fain has repeatedly pointed to he exorbitant and rising compensation packages of GM CEO Mary Barra—who made $29 million last year—and other executives as evidence that the companies have chosen to prioritize enriching their leaders even as worker pay stagnates.

The UAW is demanding a 36% wage increase for auto workers in the new four-year contract. Between 2013 and 2022, the CEOs of the Big Three U.S. car manufacturers received a 40% pay boost.

As The Associated Press noted earlier this month, "Fain's focus on CEO pay is part of a growing trend of emboldened labour unions citing the wealth gap between workers and the top bosses to bolster demand for better pay and working conditions."

"In June, Netflix shareholders rejected executive pay packages in a non binding vote, just days after the Writers Guild of America wrote letters urging investors to vote against the pay proposals, saying it would be inappropriate amid Hollywood's ongoing strike by writers," AP reported. "The WGA wrote similar letters targeting the executive pay at Comcast and NBCUniversal."

Bivens and Kandra stressed in their analysis that surging CEO pay "is not just a symbolic issue—it has contributed to rising inequality."

"CEOs are getting paid more because of their leverage over corporate boards, not because of contributions they make to their firms," they wrote. "Escalating CEO pay in recent decades has likely pulled up the pay of other top earners. This concentration of earnings at the top leaves fewer gains for ordinary workers." ‘

Boom and Bust


‘Germany’s GDP is expected to shrink by 0.5% this year as the EU’s largest economy continues to struggle with an energy crisis and higher interest rates, the IMK institute reported on Tuesday.

The IMK’s forecast of 0.7% GDP growth for 2024 is also significantly more pessimistic than its spring projection of 1.2%. Other German economic institutes such as the Ifo expect GDP growth of 1.4% for 2024.

“The German economy, weakened by energy price shocks, will not really get going in the coming months, because high interest rates and a subdued global economy are putting the brakes on,” the IMK stated.

The report predicted that private consumption will recover from the end of the third quarter due to declining inflation and stronger wage increases. “This positive development comes so late that it can only somewhat mitigate the recession in 2023 as a whole, not prevent it,” the IMK noted.

Germany officially slipped into a technical recession in the first quarter of the year as GDP growth was revised from zero to -0.3%. The Bundesbank announced last week that the economy was likely to shrink this quarter thanks to slow private consumption and the increasing weakness of industry.

Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing previously warned that Germany could once again be called the ‘Sick Man of Europe’ if structural economic issues are not addressed immediately.’

Companies in the UK’s private sector have been downsizing their workforce at the fastest rate since the global financial crisis, apart from the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, as output fell in September, according to data published by S&P Global on Friday.

The latest flash S&P Global Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) figure for the UK slipped to 46.8, down from 48.6 in August, and reached a 32-month low. The reading was well below the 50-mark, which separates growth from contraction, and lower than economists expected, S&P said.

“The disappointing PMI survey results for September mean a recession is looking increasingly likely in the UK,” Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, warned.

“The steep fall in output signalled by the flash PMI data is consistent with GDP contracting at a quarterly rate of over 0.4%, with a broad-based downturn gathering momentum to hint at few hopes of any imminent improvement.”

‘The British jobs market is facing an “abrupt turnaround,” prompting companies to shed staff at the fastest pace since the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, excluding the pandemic, S&P said.

“A major concern in the inflation outlook has been wage growth, but with the survey now signalling the sharpest fall in employment since 2009, wage bargaining power is being eroded rapidly,” Williamson added.

Overall, private sector business activity in the UK fell at the fastest rate since March 2009 as the cost-of-living crisis and surging borrowing costs dented demand, S&P concluded.’

Boom and bust

‘It might be worthwhile reminding ourselves of what all this boom and bust actually means. In a capitalist society, the whole power of the state’s propaganda machine – press, radio, television, pulpits, government pronouncements, everything – is geared to one all-encompassing end: that the inescapable fate of the working class is to spend their entire working lives labouring for the benefit of the owning class. When nearly all the work force has knuckled down to this unavoidable destiny, it is called a boom. But every so often problems occur in the smooth functioning of this system; and they have occurred every so often ever since we’ve had capitalism. And when that happens, large numbers of the working class, despite having been brainwashed from early childhood into believing that there is no way to run society other than producing surplus value for the owning class – large numbers of them are then told they will not even be allowed to fulfil this divine decree, to work for the capitalists. On the one side, the work is obviously there to be done – food must be produced, clothing must be made, houses must be built – and all the raw materials are there, ready and waiting, or easily able to be produced. And on the other side, there are people desperately wanting to eat food, and to protect themselves from the weather with clothing and houses and so on: but where the owning class cannot see exactly how to make a profit out of it, then nobody is allowed to grow the food, make the clothes, build the houses, and all the rest of it. And it’s called a slump.’

From Socialist Standard March 2009

Socialist Sonnet No. 115

Look Forwards


History as yet unmade shall be the judge

Of present intentions, whither they pave

A destination either good or grave,

It is not enough to hold an image

Of what might be, but then not realise

It in reality. This world won’t change

Unless people decide to rearrange

Their situation from that which denies

Free access for all to what is needed

For lives to be lived well as possible,

A worldwide commonwealth to enable

Human potential to have succeeded.

This present is merely the passing sum

Of what’s been: look forwards to what’s to come.


D. A,  

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Consider Socialism

 “Robots can’t replace senior clerics, but they can be a trusted assistant that can help them issue a fatwa in five hours instead of 50 days,” said Mohammad Ghotbi, who heads a state-linked organisation in Qom that encourages the growth of technology businesses.   Iran’s recent history has been characterised by clashes between tradition and modernity. The country’s 200,000 Shia clergy — half of whom are based in Qom — have been the leading force in protecting traditional and religious values.   But with Iran’s leadership facing heightened calls to modernise in the wake of last year’s mass protest movement, the country’s clerical establishment views technology as a way to be seen to be welcoming development while strengthening the Islamic character of the country.    Ghotbi, who leads the Eshragh Creativity and Innovation House, affirmed the approach, arguing that the clergy should not oppose the desire of Iranians to share in global technological advances. “Today’s society favours acceleration and progress,” he said (, 24 September).

Oh, the irony!

The humanist and feminist author, 61-year-old Taslima Nasrin, who was born in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh, from where she is banished, her books banned and bounty placed on her head) would likely agree having once stated:  'The Quran can no longer serve as the basis of our law. A thousand years ago it may have been useful for fending off barbarism. But we live in modern times, the era of science and technology. The Quran has become superfluous. It stands in the way of progress and the way of women’s emancipation' (Index, September/October 1994).

The late, great writer of visionary science fiction, Iain (M) Banks, in one of his short stories Piece, wrote: 'Reason shapes the future, but superstition infects the present.'   Here he echoes the radical poet Shelley from over 200 years ago:

Let us hasten that glorious day
When man on man no more shall prey
When prophets priests and kings
Are numbered with forgotten things

But back to Banks.   Before his untimely death at the age of 59 in 2013, he wrote a total of ten novels which are of particular interest to socialists.   The Culture series is set in a galaxy-spanning, post-capitalist/scarcity future, featuring worlds and interstellar ships which are under the management of delegated sentient artificial intelligences or Minds.

These three short paragraphs from  A FEW NOTES ON THE CULTURE by Banks should be enough to whet your appetite for more:

'..Briefly, nothing and nobody in the Culture is exploited. It is essentially an automated civilisation in its manufacturing processes, with human labour restricted to something indistinguishable from play, or a hobby.

No machine is exploited, either; the idea here being that any job can be automated in such a way as to ensure that it can be done by a machine well below the level of potential consciousness; what to us would be a stunningly sophisticated computer running a factory (for example) would be looked on by the Culture's AIs as a glorified calculator, and no more exploited than an insect is exploited when it pollinates a fruit tree a human later eats a fruit from.

Where intelligent supervision of a manufacturing or maintenance operation is required, the intellectual challenge involved (and the relative lightness of the effort required) would make such supervision rewarding and enjoyable, whether for human or machine. The precise degree of supervision required can be adjusted to a level which satisfies the demand for it arising from the nature of the civilisation's members. People - and, I'd argue, the sort of conscious machines which would happily cooperate with them - hate to feel exploited, but they also hate to feel useless. One of the most important tasks in setting up and running a stable and internally content civilisation is finding an acceptable balance between the desire for freedom of choice in one's actions (and the freedom from mortal fear in one's life) and the need to feel that even in a society so self-correctingly Utopian one is still contributing something. Philosophy matters, here, and sound education..'.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Rainbow nation: dream v. reality

 Once upon a time

‘ A democratic state . . . industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well being of the people . . the land re-divided amongst those who work it. . . The police force and army. . . shall be the helpers and protectors of the people. .. . . a national minimum wage . . . the right to be decently housed . . . free medical care . . . Slums shall be demolished . .. ‘ (The Freedom Charter adopted by the ANC in 1955). 

Beware the smallprint

A voice in the wilderness

Misson accomplished?

The Anti-Apartheid Movement, founded in 1959,  continued to operate until 1994  when South Africa held  elections, generally seen as 'free and fair' and  in which all 'races' could vote for the first time.   

The harsh reality

Dead end

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Willingly submit?

 '...Muslim women are able to define what feminism is for themselves. They are free political agents who can set the terms of emancipation for themselves...'

Yeah, right!   There is nothing in this essay about freedom from religion.   The freedom to doubt everything (Marx's favourite motto) goes unconsidered.

UK-based journalist and commentator Khadija Khan:
'The reality is that the hijab is not a benign item of clothing in Muslim societies. It symbolizes a social structure where any demand that women be treated equally to men, in any respect, is seen as a rebellion against divine law—and such demands are often met with harsh repercussions. Wearing the hijab has always been presented as a religious imperative, a symbol of modesty, and one of the indications of a woman’s pious character, along with unconditional submissiveness to men, and complete compliance with cultural norms that treat women as second-class citizens. Women who refuse to comply are stigmatized, ostracised and tortured' (Areo magazine, 29/11//21)

The humanist and feminist author, 61-year-old Taslima Nasrin, who was born in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh, from where she is banished, her books banned and bounty placed on her head) would likely disagree about too having once stated: 'The Quran can no longer serve as the basis of our law. A thousand years ago it may have been useful for fending off barbarism. But we live in modern times, the era of science and technology. The Quran has become superfluous. It stands in the way of progress and the way of women’s emancipation' (Index, September/October 1994).

Marx wrote ‘the tradition of all past generations weighs like an incubus upon the brain of the living.’ Yet there are many who wish to keep us chained to the past, including cultural relativists, feminists such as Germaine Greer and of course religious apologists. The author wants us to see that Islam is innocent of charges made against culture, but are they correct? Consider Felicity Party Women's Branch Chairwoman Ebru Asiltürk  who opined recently that ‘…the treaty [Istanbul Convention to tackle violence again women and domestic abuse, as well as promoting gender equality – which Turkey was, ironically, the first country to ratify!] would be like a “bomb” destroying Turkey’s traditional family structure.’

Honour killings, female genital mutilation, misogyny, virginity tests, being taught that menstruation is unclean, circumcision for non-medical reasons, caste/class, homophobia, marriage to children, as well as blasphemy as a crime, non-evidence based medicine & cock and dog fighting - all of them should be thrown in the dustbin of history! We need to establish a new society '... in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all’ (Communist Manifesto, 1848).

This from Dworkin writing 45 years ago remains valid (more so if Afghanistan and Iran are included), alas, and shows she could on occasion be spot on:

'Seductive mirages of progress notwithstanding, nowhere in the world is apartheid practiced with more cruelty and finality than in Saudi Arabia. Of course, it is women who are locked in and kept out, exiled to invisibility and object powerlessness within their own country. It is women who are degraded systematically from birth to early death, utterly and total and without exception deprived of freedom. It is women who are sold into marriage or concubinage, often before puberty; killed if their hymens are not intact on the wedding night; kept confined, ignorant, pregnant, poor, without choice or recourse. It is women who are raped and beaten with full sanction of the law. It is women who cannot own property or work for a living or determine in any way the circumstances of their own lives. It is women who are subject to a despotism that knows no restraint. Women, locked out and locked in. Mr Carter, enchanted with his good friends, the Saudis. Mr Carter, a sincere advocate of human rights. Sometimes even a feminist with a realistic knowledge of male hypocrisy and a strong stomach cannot believe the world she lives in' (A Feminist Looks at Saudi Arabia, 1978).

Friday, September 22, 2023

Short audio interview with two Socialist Party members

Unearthed Collective is a group of artists, curators and neighbours who meet monthly at Studio Voltaire to investigate Clapham’s community and history through the lens of creative practice. 

Two of Party members were recently interviewed for an exhibition on Clapham High Street, London, that opens on 23 September.

Scroll down to the interviews.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

"What right-wing social media does to you," meeting, 22/9.

 Friday 22 September 19.30 (GMT + 1)

*What right-wing social media does to you*
Speaker: Mike Foster.

The meeting is on zoom.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Socialist Stanza No. 114

Football Belongs To…


“Football belongs to everyone”, or so

The TV trailer dribbles, with moving

Images of goals scored, shots saved, proving,

With men and women, girls and boys, there’s no

Inequality in the people’s game.

Except, of course, clubs are the property

Of potentates, those with the equity

And leveraged deals, their motives the same,

Premier profits. Players simply assets

To be bought and sold, fans are consumers

With no control over what occurs;

Promotion, relegation, crippling debts.

Football belongs to everyone et al?

No! The whole game belongs to capital.


D. A.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

What is War good for? Business!

 For those who remember The Temptations / Edwin Starr song written by Whitfield / Strong song, ‘War’, the question was posed in the lyrics, what is it good for? ‘Nothing’ was the answer given in the song. An arms fair attendee was more forthcoming: ‘War is good for business’.

‘Military-industrial complex players big and small gathered in London this week, hawking everything from long-range missiles to gold-plated pistols to arms fair attendees—including representatives of horrific human rights violators—as weapon-makers and other merchants of the machinery of death reap record profits.

"War is good for business," one defence executive attending the biennial Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) conference at ExCel London flat-out told Reuters. "We are extremely busy," Michael Elmore, head of sales at the U.K.-based armoured steelmaker MTL Advanced, told the media agency.

Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine and the West's scramble to arm Ukrainian homeland defenders have been a bonanza for arms-makers.

"Ukraine is a very interesting combination of First and Second World War technologies and very modern technology," Kuldar Vaarsi, CEO of the Estonian unmanned ground vehicle firm MILREM, told Reuters.

Sabre-rattling and fear-mongering by government, media, and business figures amid rising tensions between the U.S. and its allies on one side, and a fast-rising China on the other, have also spurred military spending, including Japan's $320 billion buildup announced last December.

"We think this is a longer-term essentially 'sea change' in national defence strategy for the U.S. and for our Western allies," Jim Taiclet, CEO of U.S. arms giant Lockheed Martintold told investors  during a call earlier this summer announcing higher-than-expected sales and profit outlooks. 

According to the  Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States, Russia, France, China, and Germany were the world's top arms exporters from 2018-22, with the five nations accounting for 76% of all weapons exports during that period. The U.S. accounted for nearly 40% of such exports during those five years, while increasing its dominance in the arms trade. The U.S. also remains by far the world’s biggest military spender.’

Why do capitalist states prepare for and wage war?

Socialist Standard November 2008

‘As we socialists never tire of pointing out, the primary function of military power in capitalism is to protect and expand control over resources, markets and transport routes on behalf of the capitalist class of the country concerned. However, the costs and risks that wars and armaments entail for the capitalists themselves often outweigh the benefits to them.

For example, while the U.S. did have real interests at stake in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, those interests were hardly commensurate with the enormous costs of the war it was waging there. Growing awareness of this fact within the capitalist class eventually led to withdrawal.

In other words, states have a tendency to act in ways that appear to be irrational even in terms of the capitalist interests that they are supposed to represent.

War – a capitalist enterprise

There are various reasons for this apparent irrationality. But the main reason is this. War is not only a service that the state provides to the national capitalist class as a whole. War is also – and increasingly – a massive capitalist enterprise in its own right, a “war business” that wields considerable political clout and has special interests of its own.

The core of the war business, of course, is the so-called military-industrial complex. Arms manufacturers, like other capitalist firms, seek to maximise their profits. It does not concern them whether the weapons they sell have a cogent strategic rationale.

The military-industrial complex has a direct interest not only in the build-up of armaments but in war itself. War is the only way of testing weaponry under battlefield conditions. It uses up and destroys old stocks that then have to be replaced – rearmament is now, for instance, the top priority of the Georgian government – and stimulates demand in general.

But nowadays arms firms are not the only large-scale “merchants of death.” Companies like Blackwater sell combat capability directly as the labour of hired mercenaries. Other companies, such as Halliburton, sell logistics and other war support services.

Resource wars, “strategic” wars

The argument is not that all armed conflicts are irrational in terms of the costs and benefits accruing to national capital. Some undoubtedly make good sense in these terms, as when valuable resources can be acquired at moderate expense. One example might be the “cod wars” of the 1970s between Britain and Iceland over fishing rights in the North Atlantic. Another, perhaps, is the ongoing conflict over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, whose oil and gas deposits are coveted by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

At the other extreme, some wars have no discernible connection with the control of markets and resources. The recent war in Georgia was in this category. Although important oil and gas pipelines run through the south of the country, Russia did not contest control over them. Russia’s rationale for war was “strategic” – that is, getting into a better position to fight future wars.

Again, Israel’s wars are senseless from the point of view of the Israeli capitalist class as a whole, which has a clear interest in a peace settlement that will give it full access to the markets and cheap labour of the Middle East. This interest, however, seems unable to prevail against the political stranglehold of Israel’s military-industrial complex.

The nature of the wars that the US and its allies are currently fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is less clear-cut. Control of resources, markets and transport routes is certainly an important factor, especially in Iraq, but the likely outcome is hardly such as to justify the enormous costs involved. While the ultimate motive for war may be to arrest the decline in the competitive position of the US in the world economy, the actual effect is to accelerate that decline.

Capitalism and war: two models

So we end up with two contrasting models of the relationship between capitalism and war. In the first model, war appears as an instrument in the hands of the state, which acts as the “executive committee of the (national) capitalist class as a whole” (Marx). The second model, unlike the first, takes into account the fact that war is evolving from an instrument at the service of the national capitalist class as a whole into a capitalist enterprise in its own right -- what we might call the war business. The war business has special capitalist interests of its own, so it cannot function simply as an instrument of more general capitalist interests.

Does the first model represent capitalism in its “normal” form, while the second model represents an “abnormal” ultra-militaristic mutation of the capitalist system? Is the first model rational, in capitalist if not in human terms, while the second model is irrational? At first sight that seems reasonable.

But is there in fact any good reason to regard one model as any more irrational than the other? Each model represents a possible variant of capitalism and a possible form of capitalist rationality. The difference is that the first model assumes the existence of such a thing as “national capital as a whole,” while the second model envisions only separate capitalist enterprises. Some firms sell sausages, some sell computers – and some sell war’.

Stephen Shenfield

Monday, September 18, 2023

Huddled Masses Opting Out


In a supplication reminiscent of the entreaty at the base of the statue of liberty in New York harbour, the UK Work and Pensions Secretary appeals to those of the working class who, through no fault of their own, are unable to offer themselves up to full-time, long-term exploitation, to help reduce the financial burden of running this particular capitalist entity.

The MailOnline reports: ‘One million people on sickness benefits could be forced to start looking for jobs including thousands with mobility and anxiety problems as the Government gets set to slash billions from its welfare budget,

More: ‘Up to a million sickness and disability benefit claimants are to be ordered to seek work. Unveiled by Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride the blitz is aimed at slashing the £26billion welfare budget’.

An estimated 2.5 million incapacity claimants are deemed unable to work and languish on handouts. But ministers believe this total could be cut by hundreds of thousands if those excused work because of mobility or anxiety problems are told to look for employment.

They also hope the shake-up will plug gaps in the labour market and boost the economy. Official surveys suggest that up to half a million people on sickness benefits want a job and are keen to receive help’.

Those deemed capable of work could have their benefits docked if they refuse to cooperate.

The British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is quoted as saying; ‘helping people back into work could 'transform lives ... providing not just greater financial security, but also providing purpose that has the power to benefit individuals, their families, and their communities... The steps we're taking will ensure no one is held back from reaching their full potential through work, which is key to ensuring our economy is growing and fit for the future.'

Perhaps he should contemplate becoming a stand-up comedian?

Those with an interest in the welfare of the disabled are understandably concerned: “James Taylor of Scope, a disability equality charity, said: 'We're worried these proposals will end up forcing huge numbers of disabled people to look for work when they aren't well enough, making them more ill. If they don't meet strict conditions, they'll have their benefits stopped. In the grips of a cost-of-living crisis this could be catastrophic.'

Sarah White, of the disability charity Sense, said: 'We're seriously concerned that if the Government does overhaul its assessment process without putting any additional support in place, then disabled people are just going to be put under more pressure to find work, without having the support they need to do so.'”.

‘Why put workers through costly training programmes when there are ample skilled workers already available, albeit suffering ill-health or disability to varying degrees? Far better to meet the demands for a low paid, short-term casual and part-time workforce by scraping the barrel and getting the skilled disabled—specifically those who are suffering less than 65 percent disability—back into the labour market. With 2.8 million people of working age claiming benefits due to ill-health or disability, Harriet Harman, the Secretary of State for Social Security, intends to ensure their amount of benefits does not act a disincentive to them returning to employment.

This explains the emphasis Tony Blair places on “offering the opportunity” to those who are sick and disabled to provide for themselves with “appropriate support”. But such explanations also provide the means for the Blair government to distance itself from the present obligation of “provision of universal benefits for life” to a scenario of capping universal entitlement to incapacity and disability benefits to one, or two years, so that after that period means tested benefits come into operation’.

From Goodbye to the Welfare State . . . as we know it (1998)

Socialist Standard March 1998

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Potential UK 'Mortgage Meltdown'


‘A growing number of British households are falling behind on loan payments, with mortgage arrears jumping by 13% in the second quarter of the year to the highest level since 2016, Bank of England data has shown.

The value of home loans with late payments rose to £16.9 billion ($21.1 billion), up 29% on the previous year, as rising interest rates and unemployment in recent months have put pressure on household disposable incomes.

“The speed at which mortgage arrears are increasing is terrifying and should give cause to pause at the next Bank of England interest rate meeting,” Lewis Shaw, founder of Mansfield-based Shaw Financial Services, told the news agency Newspage. He warned that a “mortgage meltdown” was coming unless the regulator changes its approach.

The Bank of England has been hiking interest rates in an effort to contain rising inflation, which has worsened the cost-of-living crisis in the country. However, this makes home loans more expensive to pay back, since mortgage holders are paying higher interest.

“This is dire data, and we know that it’s about to get an awful lot worse with 1.6 million mortgage holders due to renew over the next 12 months at significantly higher rates than anyone has been used to for well over a decade,” Shaw added.

The data showed that mortgage lending was also down in the second quarter of the year, with gross advances falling by $7.8 billion to $65.3 billion. Borrowing has shrunk by almost a third in annual terms, to the lowest level since the worst of the Covid-19 collapse in lending in the second quarter of 2020.’

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Making a killing

 W. M. Hughes, Prime Minister of Australia during the war to end all wars observed: ‘The increasing intensity of competition for economic markets must lead to armed conflict unless an economic settlement is found. This, however, is hardly to be hoped for. Talk about peace in a world armed to the teeth is utterly futile’ (News Chronicle, 25 July 1936). And, more recently: 'A senior U.S. State Department official said Thursday that a massive Ukraine aid package ― which contains $4 billion in grants for allies to buy American-made military hardware ― is partly aimed at eroding Russia’s share of the global defense market' (US poised to bite into Russia’s global defense market share, Yahoo, 13 May, 2022).

Further evidence from earlier this week:


Friday, September 15, 2023

Fact v. fiction

 'The adherents of the "Yes In My Backyard," or YIMBY, movement believe that America's housing crisis comes down to the fundamental tension between supply and demand. The country simply doesn't have enough homes, they argue, so people are forced to fight, scrape, and pay exorbitant prices to secure the housing that is available. Building more homes, or "housing abundance" in YIMBY parlance, is the key to improving access and ensuring an affordable cost of living.'

There are on any given night  between 500,000-600,000 homeless people in the US, with about one-third sleeping on the streets and two-thirds in homeless shelters.   According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey for 2018., there are 138,539,906 housing units in the United States, of which 17,019,726 homes are vacant.

The YIMBY movement will fail.   This is also true of  the Ending Homelessness Act of 2019.  150+ years ago Frederick Engels explained why: 'As long as the capitalist mode of production continues to exist, it is folly to hope for an isolated solution of the housing question or of any other social question affecting the fate of the workers. The solution lies in the abolition of the capitalist mode of production and the appropriation of all the means of life and labour by the working class itself’ (The Housing Question, 1872).

Thursday, September 14, 2023

A 'Ratner' moment


An Australian capitalist has brought a ‘Ratner’ moment upon himself.

Gerald Ratner was a jewellers CEO who, in 1991, cost his company five hundred million pounds when the Group’s value plummeted following his public remarks that items sold by the Group were cheap because they were crap.

Whilst everyone loves a bargain it seems people don’t like being told that many can only afford the tacky and shoddy which it what capitalists are more than happy to provide and profit from.

This new ‘Ratner’, goes by the name of Tim Gurney. He would appear to want to turn the clock back sufficiently that the most tooth and claw of early naked capitalism values could be reintroduced. He is, without doubt, a (insert expletive of your choice here). We are far too polite to say what we think. Of course there are (your words) amongst the minority asset-owning class, and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of the contempt which many of them have for the exploited majority property-less class who provide their wealth. More importantly, it’s the system which needs to be attacked, scrutinised, and explained so that it may be abolished and replaced.

Anyhoo, he’s said he’s sorrreeeee so that’s okay then.

Gurney said, ‘We need to see pain in the economy...(Australia’s) current unemployment rate of 3.7% should rise by 40-50% to reduce "arrogance in the employment market’. Further, ‘There's been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them...We need to remind people they work for the employer, not the other way around.’

That would see more than 200,000 people lose their jobs. Perhaps Gurney fancies himself as a political economist and would like to conduct an experiment to see what effect and how quickly, an immediate large influx of an industrial reserve army into the labour market would have?

The position may be summed up as follows. As under present conditions, all commodities are produced for profit, production must cease with the cessation of profit. As profit and wages between them constitute and have their only source in the value created by the worker, profit can only appear while wages are prevented from consuming the whole product of labour. As wages, the price of labour power, are regulated by the relation of supply and demand, a surplus of labour-power (the unemployed), is necessary to prevent wages swallowing up all profit. Therefore the unemployed army is a vital necessity to Capitalist production, and there can be no solution under Capitalism’.

(From the Socialist Standard, December, 1908.)

An Australian Liberal MP Keith Wolahan said, 'The loss of a job is not a number. It sees people on the streets and dependent upon food banks’.

Now there’s someone who recognises that under capitalism the vast majority have no choice other than to sell their physical/mental labour power in order to live. Unfortunately, despite his comments he probably doesn't campaign for the abolition of capitalism.

Some would seem to agree with Gurner -Minerals Council of Australia chairman Andrew Michelmore is quoted as saying,’Employees have got used to earning the same amount of money but not putting in the same hours’. Can you credit those greedy workers? Wanting something for nothing.

Tim Gurner btw is the chief executive and founder of Gurner Group and has an estimated worth of A$929 million (£479m; $598m).’ Practically on the breadline then.

He has previously spoken about how loans from his grandfather and former boss helped him get his start as a business owner.

Mr Gurner also previously made controversial comments criticising young home buyers for their spending habits, saying in 2017 that when he was saving for his first home, he "wasn't buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each"'.

A caustic article in The Guardian takes aim at the individual not the system.

Of interest in the article is the plaintive cry offered up that Australian workers ‘have never been so productive’ and ‘yet they are not being rewarded for it.’

Australian capitalists are apparently ‘taking more in profit than they give back in wages.’

Lots of capitalists no doubt would like to shift the balance even more in favour of themselves and their ability to extract surplus value from workers.

The September 2023 Socialist Standard quoted a private equity chairman who, using much less intemperate language, was arguing for deregulation of labour laws.

In a Bloomberg podcast, on 19 May, with Guy Hands, the billionaire chairman of a large private equity company, said, ‘I look at the UK and see that, in 2030, Poland will be wealthier than we are. In 2040, we will be the poor man in Europe’.

He opines, ‘the UK should not have left the EU, as the country needs rule of law and consistency, but not a single politician is talking about going back.’ He lamented that ‘Brexit has essentially thrown the country back 50 years, to the 1970s, a decade that is widely remembered as a time of crisis, with skyrocketing inflation, high unemployment, strikes and power cuts.’

Since the UK left the European Union, it has been competing on the world stage, but the country’s current laws are not suitable for the new environment.’

Now that the UK is out of the EU, the British government could take a radical approach and change some of its laws, Hands said, citing the country’s ‘extraordinarily complex’ labour laws that are a ‘nightmare’ compared to other European countries’.

In 1973, then Prime Minister Edward Heath, in relation to the Lonrho affair, came up with the phrase, ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism,’.

Those who benefit the most from it are still displaying the unalterable fact that capitalism will never have an acceptable face despite the considerable efforts that go into persuading the majority that there is no better alternative. Shame on you, or shame on me?

Smoothing it Over

‘Heath tried to salvage something from the Lonrho affair, which showed up another aspect of privilege, by making his instantly famous remark about the "unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism.” There are no reports of him choking on the words. The shareholders displayed their feelings by packing the company’s special general meeting and enthusiastically supporting the management policies, big handouts, tax avoidance and all, simply because they had produced big dividends. That is the normal face of capitalism, much more logical than Heath’s pathetic attempt to humbug his way out of the matter. The Tory leader, like any other politician, can accept any face of capitalism without a thought for the savagery of its exploitation. Beside that, there are no grounds for objecting to some company directors fiddling a few hundred thousand on the side’.

Socialist Standard August 1973