Spare us another Thatcherite clone…

I came a little late to the whole 30 year Thatcher victory anniversary thing… but there were too many parallels to the state of chaos that was engulfing the UK back then and what threatens to engulf the western world now, resist putting my oar in… With one major British political party holding the baby when disaster struck; and the other doing everything it can not to answer any of the difficult questions now being asked in the wake of a near world market collapse, I argue on Brassneck that the UK may need another Thatcher-like figure, but not another Thatcherite clone

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  • nineteensixtyseven

    I agree we need something different but also if the experience of Thatcher taught us anything it is to beware iconoclasts with big ideas and strange theories. You invoked Joseph Schumpeter’s term ‘creative destruction’ by which he meant the evolutionary process by which capitalism changes its form with a lot of short-term pain and destruction leading to a new period of growth.
    That’s an apt term to use when discussing Thatcherism and the general New Right neoliberal shift away from the post-war ‘consensus’. But within that shift lay the seeds of today’s crisis; the unshackling of world finance made it a perfect repository for surplus capital and, in the UK anyway, it became the main engine of economic growth. Instead, therefore, of the periodic crises of overproduction and subsequent contraction that Marx and Schumpeter pointed out in 1873, 1929 etc. we got periodic collapses caused by overspeculation in asset values. With the decline of real wages and the ever-increasing extension of credit to populations looking to maintain their living standards, the financial sector took on an even greater importance and the consequences of its failure thus became even more disastrous.
    The New Right had a quick fix to the crisis of Keynesianism in the 1970s but it was by no means a panacea. Whoever appears on the scene this time to patch up the capitalist system will probably succeed in the short-term but, in the long, there will be another crisis- the process of ‘creative destruction’ or ‘the tendency for the rate of profit to fall’ or whatever you want to call it will continue until maybe it will eventually become impossible to fix the system.

  • willis

    “When Mrs Thatcher came to power, she and her advisers had been thinking for years about the policies and ideas they intended to pursue.”

    So had Blair and Brown.

    The difference was that they only wanted to change their party. She was determined to change the country. She did, sadly not for the better.

    I still regard this to be the best judgement on Margaret Thatcher:

    “She started with a country full of people like her father and ended with one full of people like her son.”

  • Brian Walker

    Mick, To dash off a few thoughts to the contrary..

    To need another Thatcher, we’d need to be in a similar mess. “Great leaders need great events.” I hold a few unfashionable opinions that suggest life is pretty good.

    “We’re not in a near world collapse,” merely at the end of a particularly tricky business cycle aggravated by shock.

    Not too much is wrong with our politics. (I mean UK, though I think we’re getting there in ROI and even NI).Corruption is slight and superficial, Westminster has more powers than most parliaments.

    Human rights protection like ECHCR can encourage over-litigation but just think how the course of Irish history might have been different if Protestant rights had been guaranteed in a 19th century Home Rule Act.

    “There are no great, brave causes left”. Try global warming, which is complicated but non-adversarial.

    Society is gradually, unevenly integrating, despite blips like 7/7. “Ashes to Ashes” reflection proves how much more civilised we’re getting – racism no longer respectable, same sex relationships legally sanctioned, gender equality campaigning is cracking the glass ceiling, public smoking ban, preventive health strategies – to name but a few.

    World output will double in a generation. In this recession, some are reverting to 60s-style “anti-growth “small is beautiful” bu this will pass. Growth should be balanced by greater equality, but it sure beats getting poorer.

    Our chronic problem is that we pocket progress and start moaning again. Think of the wonder of the fall of the Wall ( I saw a big shiny lorry today advertising haulage to Belarus, Ukraine and Russia – think how unimaginable that was in 1979).

    The Darwin anniversary reminded us that progress isn’t programmed or inevitable. But much has got better. One qualification. We the middle class boomers lived in a bubble of privilege we didn’t appreciate at the time. We enjoyed the biggest break of the modern era – free education, a guaranteed job. The rocky road to equality mean our successors have a tougher life.

    Finally, Thatcher’s USP wasn’t tackling the unions or privatisation, which she soft-pedalled in 1979. It was the sale of council houses.

    If Labour ever picks itself up from despair, it will campaign on the issue: coming out of recession, which party is likely to defend most people’s interests? It’s a no brainer, unless Cameron belatedly wows us with great new ideas.
    But if Labour is thrown out, it’s hardly the end of the world. Our countries enjoy a large measure of consensus, even if unacknowledged.

    Big obvious targets like Thatcher had in 1979 ( or actually, unofficial strikes) elude political leaders today. The one good thing about spin is that your opponents can hear the sound of dog whistles over immigration or nimbyism before they’re even blown.

    P.S A big challenge for our time is to downplay identity politics. I could go on…

  • willis

    I wish I could dash off that lot!

    “Our chronic problem is that we pocket progress and start moaning again.”

    You will never get a job at the Daily Mail with that attitude!

  • Read, mark and take careful note of Brian Walker @ 07:19 PM.

    Exclude the pair of “war leaders” (for what it’s worth, UK commitments and, alas, casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan now far exceed the ten weeks of the pathetic face-saving “Falklands War”), and the outstanding PM of the last century, by common consensus, has been Clem Attlee.

    When Peter Hennessy was writing his history of The Prime Minister: The Office and its Holders since 1945, he had the telling comment from Christopher Soames (Churchill’s son-in-law, in the Cabinets of Macmillan, Home and Thatcher):

    Mrs Thatcher was not really running a team. Every time you have a Prime Minister who wants to make all the decisions, it mainly leads to bad results. Attlee didn’t. That’s why he was so damn good.

    Cabinet Government is not an annexe of celebrity magazines. That narrowing approach suits the PR-style of the Cameroonie metrosexual fetishists. It makes life easy for the Tory Boy journos. It also diminishes the citizens, the political institutions, and the quality of public debate. Can we today imagine Penguin Books (as it did in the ’40s) publishing a series of nothing more titillating than edited Hansard debates? That was a time when Gollancz and other publishers found hard-bound political tracts “selling like hot pornography”.

    We do not need this obsession with the cult of personality: we can actually hold two ideas at almost the same time. The last thing we need is another smug, brassy, bossy, philistine, opinionated Attila-the-Hen.

  • Greenflag

    Brian ,

    ‘Growth should be balanced by greater equality’

    Should but who would make it so ? Not business. History tells us that without government intervention and trades unions it would be minimum wage all round if d qite posssibly outright slavery . Remember even the arch capitalist Henry Ford was successfully sued by his shareholders for failing in his fiduciary responsibilities by giving his employees a wage rise. There is no point in blaming business for the greater inequalities in income in the USA. The fault lies in ourselves and our elected governments and trades unions and our appointed regulators .

    ‘ I saw a big shiny lorry today advertising haulage to Belarus, Ukraine and Russia – think how unimaginable that was in 1979’

    There are a lot of things ‘unimaginable ‘ going on in modern Russia from deteriorating life expectancy to a fast declining population to the takeover of most of the private sector by gangsters and former communist apparatchiks .

    All that’s shiny is not gold 😉

    Mick’s point is well made IMO but from where I sit there is no sign of any ‘Thatcher ‘ be it of the left or right on either the near or far horizon . The only ‘radical’ change leader appears to be Obama and I believe he won’t be directly or even indirectly contesting the next UK election.

    I can agree with Mick’s point that Britain may need a ‘Thatcher like figure but it would be a tougher act to follow now . ‘ Did Weimar Germany need Hitler or was it the other way around? Did the 1930’s German middle class just go apeshit because they lost their life savings in a couple of weeks of hyper inflation was it just a random mass psychosis ?

  • Greenflag

    malcolm redfellow ,

    ‘We do not need this obsession with the cult of personality’

    You mean we’re not North Korea 😉 ? yet

    Clement Atlee the best PM ? Who’d ever have thought it ? A man of whom Churchill said – ‘He is a modest man with much to be modest about ‘

    Perhaps there was value to modesty in the pre mass marketing spin age . Top politicians now have to look like they can smile successfully out of a woman’s magazine cover . Cameron can fake it but poor dour oul Brown finds it more of a challenge . Can’t say I blame him

  • willis

    Ah Clement Attlee!

    If you think he was a great Prime Minister, just look at this excerpt from his autobiography, talking about Ramsey McDonald and Philip Snowden in the early ’30’s

    “In the old days I had looked up to MacDonald as a great leader. He had a fine presence and great oratorical power. The unpopular line which he took during the First World War seemed to mark him as a man of character. Despite his mishandling of the Red Letter episode, I had not appreciated his defects until he took office a second time. I then realised his reluctance to take positive action and noted with dismay his increasing vanity and snobbery, while his habit of telling me, a junior Minister, the poor opinion he had of all his Cabinet colleagues made an unpleasant impression. I had not, however, expected that he would perpetrate the greatest betrayal in the political history of this country. I had realised that Snowden had become a docile disciple of orthodox finance, but I had not thought him capable of such virulent hatred of those who had served him loyally. The shock to the Party was very great, especially to the loyal workers of the rank-and-file who had made great sacrifices for these men.

    Many members of the Government, of whom I was one, were seriously disturbed at the lack of constructive policy displayed by the leaders of the Government. We were also conscious of a growing estrangement between MacDonald and the rest of the Party. He was increasingly mixing only with people who did not share the Labour outlook. This opposition, however, did not crystallise, because the one man who could have taken MacDonald’s place, Arthur Henderson, was too loyal to lend himself to any action against his leader. Instead of deciding on a policy and standing or falling by it, MacDonald and Snowden persuaded the Cabinet to agree to the appointment of an Economy Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir George May of the Prudential Insurance Company, with a majority of opponents of Labour on it. The result might have been anticipated. The proposals were directed to cutting the social services and particularly unemployment benefit. Their remedy for an economic crisis, one of the chief features of which was excess of commodities over effective demand, was to cut down the purchasing power of the masses. The majority of the Government refused to accept the cuts and it was on this issue that the Government broke up. Instead of resigning, MacDonald accepted a commission from the King to form a so-called ‘National’ Government.”

    If you think Brown and Darling are bad – Labour have been here before – and they are no going to make the same mistake again.

  • willis @ 10:33 PM:

    As It Happened, Attlee’s 1954 autobiography is, as they say, “a good read”. As I recall, his account of accepting office in 1945 is a gem. If my memory holds, he describes receiving the ‘phone call from the Palace: his wife was going out shopping anyway, so she dropped him at the gates of Buck House. There then followed a strange and silent “interview” with George VI, who was tongue-tied. Eventually, Attlee muttered that he had won the General Election, to which the King replied, yes — he had heard just that on the six o’clock news. [E. & O. E.: I really must go hunting in the attic and dig the book out again.]

    Do find the time to explain why Attlee’s approach (and that of the others who did not accept the May Report and the MacDonaldite sell-out) to the 1931 crisis was soooo wrong. That would be very instructive, and, doubtless, a fine piece of alternative history.

    Curiously, most modern critics believe that the National Government policies of 1931 onwards worsened the crisis and lengthened the recession. Consider the implications: 10% cuts in public sector pay and unemployment relief; income tax increased by 6d/£; a naval mutiny; an instant half million more unemployed; collapse of sterling (the prime intent of the May Report was to maintain the gold standard, and didn’t); collapse of the benefits system; extortionate interest rates which had to be reversed with a devaluation (shades of Norman Lamont); resiling from Free Trade with import tariffs …

    No: the gross errors that MacDonald and Snowden made were to accept and implement conservative measures, dictated to them by Monty Norman at the Bank of England.

    After 1935, of course, everything went into reverse: public works, re-armament; (and yet more import tariffs). All too late … But, of course, the upper- and middle-class had it easier: deflation; lots of cheap servants (as late as 1940, half the employed women of Britain were in domestic service).

    I suggest that you might usefully read Robert Skidelsky’s denunciation of 1931 and all its works [Politicians and the Slump]. And since you are implying some parallel with the present crisis, try also Skidelsky’s essay in the January 2009 issue of Prospect magazine. Skidelsky, unlike other members of the Tory Parliamentary nexus, has not shrunk from rational and detailed analsis of what went wrong and where we go from here. If only we had heard something similar, even the slightest squeak of practical policy, from the Cameroonies.

  • Greenflag

    malcolm redfellow,

    ‘his wife was going out shopping anyway, so she dropped him at the gates of Buck House’

    Did he have to take the Number 14 bus home or did King George order a taxi 😉 ?

    On a wider note -what is perceived as the shrinking from rational and detailed analysis of what went wrong and where do we go from here is due simply to the fact that nobody knows quite yet which way lies redemption (economic and/or political . In this climate the Cameroonies are being just politic in the narrow party sense.

  • Greenflag

    nineteensixtyseven ,

    Thoughtful post and you raise the scary ultimate ‘what if ‘ i.e a complete systemic breakdown of the current economic order ‘ My crystal ball tells me that while this possibility can’t ever be excluded ( the economic world came very close to total meltdown in August /Sept 2008) the actions taken then have helped to reduce the likelihood of a world wide systemic collapse .

    ‘The New Right had a quick fix to the crisis of Keynesianism in the 1970s but it was by no means a panacea.e ‘

    That it was’nt . But back then the New Right’s prescription was contained mostly within the USA /UK on . We now live in a different world partly at least the ‘creation’ of the New Right .Nixon opened up China for business and set in train ‘events ‘ which have ultimatley led the USA into financial dependency on a ‘communist ‘ regime ?

    ‘ Whoever appears on the scene this time to patch up the capitalist system will probably succeed in the short-term but,’

    The alternative i.e a short term system wide collapse on a planet with 6 billion people is unthinkable 🙁

    ‘in the long, there will be another crisis- the process of ‘creative destruction’ or ‘the tendency for the rate of profit to fall’ or whatever you want to call it will continue until maybe it will eventually become impossible to fix the system. ‘

    If I’m reading you right here what you seem to be seeing as an eventuality is that when the world becomes truly one market that the fallacy of composition will set in and that what once worked for regions of the earth and for large national economies just can’t be made to work on a planet with 200 countries all trying to win investment , increase living standards , procure scarce resources etc and all at the same time (hopefully) trying to maintain ‘democratic ‘ values ?

    mmmmmmmmmmmm ?

  • Mack

    nineteensixtyseven

    What has been missing from this crisis is the natural outworking of Schumpeter’s ‘creative destruction’. Many of the banks that took undue risks with other people money have not been destroyed, instead they’ve been propped up. Today the bailout is direct and explicit, as it was in 1998 with the bailout of Long Term Capital Management but in the recent past bailouts have been more subtle via the Greenspan put.

    Bailouts don’t just stop creative destruction from working it’s magic, they create a Moral Hazard. If I lend you a million, but the government guarantees to pay me back if you lose it speculating – you’d be mad not to bet the whole lot. Heads you win, tails the government bails me out (the taxpayer loses).

    The thing is, terms such as ‘left’ and ‘right’ are slightly misleading. The ‘New Right’ are in charge, but loses are socialised – there is interference with market processes via bailouts.

    The solution is to realise the proper limits of the market. Once ‘creative destruction’ becomes unpalatable within an industry the market can not function, and no matter what we tell ourselves we no longer have a functioning market economy in that sector. At that point the government should step in – and break up the ‘too big to fail’ entity into smaller destructable companies, or if part of the business is strategically critical that part should be nationalised.

    See –
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5d5aa24e-23a4-11de-996a-00144feabdc0.html

  • willis

    Hi Malcolm

    I can see how you misread my ambiguous comment. I meant that Snowden and MacDonald had been mistaken in deflating.

  • willis @ 12:26 PM:

    Sorry: partly my miscue; and partly being almost wide-awake at 3 a.m. (the Met Police doubtless speeding to a pressing engagement for a cup of tea and a sarny). I think that second para, which disses you at later reading, was meant to start “I wish someone would find the time …”

    Greenflag @ 08:39 AM jests but touches on a point of modern interest in so doing. I have a suspicion that, pre “the kissing hands on appointment” nonsense, Attlee had no right to an official car, being merely just another recently-elected MP. I suspect that, in those dim, distant days, even as Leader of the Opposition he could not call upon an official car. So much for MP’s “expenses”.

    Churchill’s crack (which Greenflag @ 9:33 PM relates is belied by the simple facts: Churchill relied on Attlee and the other Labour men to cope with domestic policy, while the PM double-guessed the generals. Look at the Hansard reports: it is immediately clear that Attlee was well capable of responding in kind: a common description of his manner is “waspish”. When Churchill, Eden and Co. returned to power in ’51, they were astounded and admiring at what Attlee and Bevin had been doing sub-rosa through the secret financing of defence: Bevin’s determination to go for a nuclear bomb, “with a bloody big Union Jack on the top of it” is well documented.

    Attlee, who balanced and held together that fractious collection of Labour egos quite magnificently, deserves considerable respect. He and his Administration, of course, were coping with problems of a magnitude far geater than any “crisis” of today. Many contemporary commentators reached for the term “headmasterly”.

    He was, notoriously, terse and monosyllabic (a consequence of congenital shyness): George VI referred to him as “Clam”. There’s that lovely story of Herbie Morrison (other versions have Stafford Cripps) coming to Downing Street to tell Attlee that the Party wanted a new leader. Attlee asked who was the replacement: Morrison/Cripps named Ernie Bevin. Attlee picked up the ‘phone to the Foreign Office.

    Attlee: “Ernie, I’ve got Herbert/Stafford here. He says you want my job.”
    Bevin: “Tell him to fuck off.”
    Attlee (puts down receiver, says to Morrison/Cripps): “Ernie says he doesn’t want it. Good day!.”

    ___________________

    In June 1967 the Lady and I were wandering through London, having lunched and lubricated in the pubs of Knightsbridge. It was the day of Trooping the Colour (which we studiously avoided).

    In those days it was still possible to take the short cut through Downing Street from the Park to Whitehall. There was a substantial crowd opposite No. 10. The door opened and Harold Wilson escorted a small, hunched Clem to a car. The cheer was for Clem: a voice called, “God bless you, Clem!” One could sense a warm cuddle of huge affection and respect reaching out to that fragile figure, who smiled and waved his hat back.

    That October Clem died.

  • nineteensixtyseven

    Mack,

    You are spot on that the ‘creative destruction’ process hasn’t actually been allowed to do any actual destruction. That raises interesting questions about the role of the state which has expanded massively from when Schumpeter wrote Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy in 1942. It also raises questions for Marx in the sense that there crises of production were supposed to destroy capitalism. In a laissez-faire economy that is probably quite true but in the sort of state-capitalist nexus we have now, the state is instrumental in propping up the capitalist system. It’s pretty hard to know how that will pan out.

    Greenflag,

    “If I’m reading you right here what you seem to be seeing as an eventuality is that when the world becomes truly one market that the fallacy of composition will set in and that what once worked for regions of the earth and for large national economies just can’t be made to work on a planet with 200 countries all trying to win investment , increase living standards , procure scarce resources etc and all at the same time (hopefully) trying to maintain ‘democratic ’ values ?”

    That’s a possibility. Another is that perhaps we run out of raw capital or that the constant technological innovation needed to spur further investment and growth ad infinitum will falter. It’s impossible to know what will happen I suppose; Malthus would be pretty surprised that we’re still alive today.

  • Dewi

    Best Attlee quote (among very many) :

    “Democracy means government by discussion, but it is only effective if you can stop people talking.”

    Great bloke.

  • Harry Flashman

    Clement Atlee was an honest, unassuming, fundamentally decent gentleman, a man of great integrity, a patriot and a war hero.

    However his period as His Majesty’s First Lord of the Treasury was, alas, an unmitigated failure.

    This was perhaps inevitable given the circumstances of the time and Churchill, in the modern parlance, “dodged a bullet” in July 1945. Nonetheless, unlike the present “Labour” incumbent of his high office, at least Atlee tried to do the right thing and most of his failures were due to events which were, for the most part, genuinely outside his control.

    Unfortunately when it comes to bankrupting the British economy through massive public spending, unrestricted government borrowing and devaluing the Pound, Atlee merely forms part of a sad litany of British Labour Prime Ministers.

    It was ever thus; cometh the hour cometh the Tories, I’m afraid.

  • Greenflag

    mack ,

    Generally agree with your points in 12 above – but they ‘beg ‘ a few questions .

    ‘ Many of the banks that took undue risks with other people money have not been destroyed, instead they’ve been propped up.’

    Presumably because the powers that were ( Republicans in USA , Labour in UK 2008 and FF/Greens in ROI could not sit back and let large tracts of the financial sector go down the tubes . Also the USA Republicans knew that their upcoming probable electoral defeat would have turned into a complete rout. Gordon Brown was facing into a similar bind although further down the road . Apart from massive unemployment there would have been an even larger ‘wipe out’ of millions of people’s retirement pension funds and savings . It’s bad enough as it is, but had Schumpeter’s rules been allowed to hold sway -western society could have ended up with the kind of social and political unrest that we now associate with the Weimar Republic ?

    While there is much about the ‘bail outs’ in all three countries mentioned above that I find objectionable I cannot see how the politicians had any alternative . This is now doubly seen in the political stances taken by the present opposition party in the UK, ROI and the USA . There’s nothing being offered as ‘solutions’ other than a new smiley face in the UK and Ireland . The USA cannot even provide that !

    ‘The ‘New Right’ are in charge, but losses are socialised’

    The small wealthy elite at the top (mostly ) get to hold onto their wealth whereas everyone else gets to pay for the follies of our financial services sectors and our politicians and of course ourselves .

    ‘The solution is to realise the proper limits of the market.’

    Was it not the financial services sector including banks , insurance companies et al who persuaded the USA Congress and Senate that they could be relied on to regulate themselves ?

    So exactly who would /could or should determine the proper limits of the market ? And who will then ‘police’ the new determiners ?

    ‘At that point the government should step in – and break up the ‘too big to fail’ entity into smaller destructable companies’t

    Hindsight suggests that this sounds like common sense . But in the midst of booms and bubbles common sense goes by the wayside and the gaderene herds of bankers , politicians ,etc are mostly dragged over the edge despite any personal reservations they might have as individuals .

    It will be interesting to see whether the Obama administratid will break up Bank of America and Citicorps . Despite bailouts the ‘greed’ gene ill hale and hearty . Mr Greenberg of AIG who apparently promised that only 150 million dollars in executive bonuses would be paid out in return for ‘bailout money’ has now it would appear overshot his promise by a ‘mere ‘ 300 million dollars ?

    Capital punishment for capital crimes might and I repeat might just might work ;). It would not be considered cruel and unusual punishment by a majority of USA voters or those in the UK or Ireland who also see too many of the ‘guilty ‘ getting away with a slap on the financial cheek whereas millions of taxpayers get a knife in the throat ‘

  • Mack

    Greenflag –

    So exactly who would /could or should determine the proper limits of the market ? And who will then ‘police’ the new determiners ?

    Any company that comes begging for a bailout has run scared from Mr. Market. Any company that becomes to big to fail should be broken up, nationalised or any combination of the two.

    Ideally, you want to break the companies up – so that they can fail. Then the market can do the regulation via (primarily) the threat of Schumpeter’s creative destruction (but also it’s execution too).

  • Greenflag

    nineteensixtyseven ‘

    ‘Another is that perhaps we run out of raw capital or that the constant technological innovation needed to spur further investment and growth ad infinitum will falter.’

    IIRC Hamish Macrae wrote an interesting article a while back on such a possibility i.e faltering technological innovation . Sorry I don’t have it to hand right now must have a reread given our new economic paradigm 😉

    It’s impossible to know what will happen I suppose;’

    Of course – Look around at the thousands of expert economists , experienced politicians and world statemen , exalted religious leaders and seasoned CEO’s of the worlds largest corporations . Now ask yourself how many of those in say summer 2007 were predicting an economic recession and drop in share equity values of 50% etc etc . Where were the genii of Merrill Lynch , Lehmans and Bear Stearns and of course RBS or Anglo Irish ?

    ‘ Malthus would be pretty surprised that we’re still alive today.’

    He would but then he could not see that humanity would have the ‘technology ‘ to control and limit our numbers nor could he foresee the huge advances in agricultural productivity etc .

    We have had IMO three major revolutions in the history of humanity

    The first was the Agricultural (Neolithic ) which established settled communities and led to a huge growth in populations .

    Second was the Industrial Revolution from 1730 approx to the present day at least in emerging countries of the east .

    Third is the present Information/Knowledge revolution which began approx 25 years ago and which has yet to run it’s full course . There are some who say that it will not run as long as the Industrial Revolution and others who maintain that it has within it the seeds of never ending innovation ?
    I’m still wondering whatever happened to the upcoming world of the 30 hour work week and the age of leisure and I still have on my shelf a book titled ‘The End Of Work ‘ by Jeremy Rifkind which was published in 1995 -and ‘futurised’ (apologies ) the decline of the global labor force , the post market era and even a chapter titled ‘Requiem for the working class’

    It’s time for a reread in the light of events ;)?

  • Mack

    Greenflag –

    The end of work can’t come about until living standard for almost everyone in globally competitive economies exceed levels at which we all feel comfortable. As reducing work hours unilaterally would presumably reduce any countries international competitiveness via damaging their ability to innovate / export. You’d have to feel happy with the lower standard of living that would result.

  • Greenflag

    mack ..

    ‘Any company that comes begging for a bailout has run scared from Mr. Market. ‘

    This I know . The part that scares me is that society as a whole (via it’s political representatives ) is running scared from Mr Market . Creative destruction sounds all very well at the micro level of the firm . When it becomes society wide then you raise political, social and economic issues which may undermine the entire basis of what call ‘society ‘

    I can agree with your ‘vision’ in an ideal world. Alas we have never lived in a ideal world and I don’t think I even want to 😉

    Per ardua etc

  • Greenflag

    dewi ,

    ‘Great bloke.’

    I’m guessing that quote was Clement Atlee’s polite way of telling Aneurin Bevan to shut up;) ?

  • Greenflag

    mack,

    You may have misinterpreted the book title ‘the End of Work’ Rifkind did not envision a world where the entire populations of all countries retire to discuss philosophy under the Palm trees of the Costa del Sol or their Chinese , American or Japanese etc equivalents 😉

    But a world were China becomes the workshop of the world ( Britains 19th century role ) to be followed in turn by India ? South America and where various national elites in different parts of the world get to have more than their just desserts whereas 85% of the earth’s inhabitants get to have less than they used to ?

    I don’t ever envisage a world without work . Perish the thought . I don’t want to see 80 million germans without a job . Look what happened when they had 10 million back in the 1930’s . Ditto the Japanese and indeed everybody else .

    On a more serious note the point I was trying to get across – more than hinted at by Malcolm Redfellow was the lack of realistic policy alternatives to the present neo Keynesian strategies by the political oppositions at Westminster , Washington DC and especially Dublin ?

  • nineteensixtyseven

    “He would but then he could not see that humanity would have the ‘technology ’ to control and limit our numbers nor could he foresee the huge advances in agricultural productivity etc .”

    Yep, that’s exactly what I was getting at. Who knows what will be invented or, perhaps, won’t be invented next?

  • willis

    Greenflag

    Or maybe it was Harold‘a period of silence from you would be welcome’Laski

  • Ah! ’tis the bould Harry Flashman @ 04:10 PM. Nice to hear from you, Harry: was it the last time that you were assuring us that Obama would lose?

    Now, I’m still trying to work out what’s factual in this last posting of yours.

    That bit about “dodged a bullet” in July 1945. That’s not the usual view from the right-wing (pace Churchill himself; Bob Boothby; the Beaverbrook and Northcliffe press …). It’s also worth recalling that Attlee (note spelling) and Labour were elected as a war-time Government. The results were declared on the Thursday: Hiroshima followed on Bank Holiday Monday. Elsewhere, Stalin was lowering the Iron Curtain and proving awkward in Berlin and Austria; Tito’s irregulars were trying to occupy Trieste; large bits of Italy were a civil war, communists killing fascists and vice versa. Not to mention Spain, France, the Balkans …

    Meanwhile, as David Kynaston starts Chapter 2, Broad Vistas and All That:

    Britain in 1945. No supermarkets, no motorways, no teabags, no sliced bread, no frozen food, no flavoured crisps, no lager, no microwaves, no dishwashers, no Formica, no vinyl, no CDs, no computers, no mobiles, no duvets, no Pill, no trainers, no hoodies, no Starbucks. Four Indian restaurants. Shops on every corner, pubs on every corner, cinemas in every street, red telephone boxes, Lyons Corner Houses, trams, trolley-buses, steam trains. Woodbines, Craven “A”, Senior Service, smoke, smog, Vapex inhalant. No launderettes, no automatic washing machines, wash day every Monday, clothes boiled in a tub, scrubbed on the draining board, rinsed in the sink, put through a mangle, hung out to dry. Central heating rare, coke boilers, water geysers, the coal fire, the hearth, the home, chilblains common. Abortion illegal, homosexual relationships illegal, suicide illegal, capital punishment legal. White faces evewrywhere. Back-to-backs, narrow cobbled streets, Victorian terraces, no high-rises. Arterial roads, suburban semis, the march of the pylon. Austin Sevens, Ford Eights, no seat belts, Triumph motorcycles with sidecars. A Bakelite wireless in the home, Housewives’ Choice or Worker’s Playtime or ITMA on the air, televisions almost unknown, no programmes to watch, the family eating together, Milk of Magnesia, Vick Vapour Rub, Friar’s Balsam, Fynnon Salts, Eno’s, Germolene. Suits and hats, dresses and hats, cloth caps and mufflers, no leisurewear, no ‘teenagers’. Heavy coins, heavy shoes, heavy suitcases, heavy tweed coats, heavy leather footballs, no unbearable lightness of being. Meat rationed, butter rationed, cheese rationed, lard rationed, margarine rationed, sugar rationed, tea rationed, cheese rationed, jam rationed, eggs rationed, sweets rationed, soap rationed, clothes rationed. Make do and mend.

    Sorry about that extravaganza: I have this thing about good, provocative writing.

    I would add a small personal addendum: being born in a house, just 125 miles from Westminster, which had no running water, no mains sewerage, no electricity …

    Allow me to continue the recital.

    At home nearly a million homes destroyed. Far, far more in rotting, rat-infested, bug-ridden slums: seven million dwellings with no hot-water; six million – no inside WC; five million – no bath. Life expectancy spot on pension age.

    Across Europe tens of millions starving, homeless displaced persons. Sweep the imagination east from Suffolk over the North German Plain, the Urals, the Steppes, Siberia, all the way to Seattle: no vestige of democratic government. In the UK multiple franchise for the landowners, the business class, the University educated: democracy a fairly shady business in many corners of the UK, too (no names, no pack-drill).

    Yet the Attlee government shouldered all that, and more. Delivered on the Beveridge schemes; demobilised, fed, housed, educated and fully-employed its own population, began the reconstruction of the industrial base, undertook decolonisation. And still found time and resources to stand firm against Stalinism, rebuild the British sector of Germany. All the times the Tories belayed George Woodcock and Vic Feather, contrasting British Trades Unions with the new “progressive” attitudes of the Germans: nobody stopped to ask who built built the DGB in place of the Nazi DAF. And so much more.

    The UK went bankrupt around 1941. The debts fell due five minutes after VJ day. The Americans pulled the plug. Now, that was a financial crisis. The irony is it fell to Gordon Brown to clear the last of the debt.

  • willis

    And it is not even as though the British Electorate turned against them. More people voted Labour in 1951 than before or since and more than voted for the Tories.

  • Greenflag

    malcolm redfellow .

    Thanks for that reply to Harry Flashamm 🙂 It certainly brings out the ‘context’ of the times that were in it .
    Kynaston makes post 1945 Britain sound very like 1920’s Dublin except for the Austin 7’s 🙂

    I’ll have to dig out Kynaston’s book .You can almost feel the period . To my shame I never realised how much Attlee accomplished and in truth I’ve always considered Aneurin Bevan and Winston Churchill the main political personalities of post war Britain . One now has a bit more sympathy d understanding for MacMillan’s -‘You’ve never had it so good ‘ political slogan in the early 60’s ?

    Must have a rummage for Attlee’s biography too while I’m at it .

    ‘The irony is it fell to Gordon Brown to clear the last of the debt. ‘

    And even more ironic is that no sooner is one debt cleared than another presents itself . Don’t want to sound conspiratorial but isn’t this just too much of a coincidence ;)?

  • Greenflag

    willis ,

    That’s right . In 1951 Labour got 48.8% with the Conservatives getting 48.0% . So much for the first past the post ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    When Churchill, Eden and Co. returned to power in ‘51, they were astounded and admiring at what Attlee and Bevin had been doing sub-rosa through the secret financing of defence: Bevin’s determination to go for a nuclear bomb, “with a bloody big Union Jack on the top of it” is well documented.

    Except the whole time they were passing on details of aircraft and weapons design to the Soviets (even Stalin couldn’t figure it out), and regarded the Soviet Union as the model for the direction they planned to bring the UK in – starting with the rationing system, sending delegations to the Soviet Union during and after the war to learn about the great worker’s state. I’m sure that must have played a role of some kind in the American decision to deny the UK the fruits of its nuclear research.

    Attlee, Bevan and co. were great men in many ways. But they were misguided at times and moved among friends who were especially so. Surprised you let this one past, Harry Flash.

  • Greenflag

    comrade stalin ,

    ‘Surprised you let this one past, Harry Flash.’

    In his eulogy to all things Tory and Conservative Harry even forgot to mention the last ‘great ‘ devaluation of sterling back in 1992 when if I recall correctly Mr Major emerged with a lot of egg on his face while Norman Lamont was seen stumbling down the steps of the Treasury while a certain cunning Soros pocketed one billion pounds for his grateful clients .

    Even in 1992, when pretensions to empire were long gone, the pound’s plunge out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism was regarded as the worst failure of financial management for a generation.

    Achieved by who else but the Tories ;( ?

  • Brian Walker

    Quite a wander round Attlee. But the turning point that didn’t happen was Operation ROBOT, the dash for economic freedom that Rab butler didn’t make, also vividly described by Peter Hennessy.
    From Wiki “Operation ROBOT was an economic policy devised by HM Treasury in 1952 under Chancellor of the Exchequer R. A. Butler but which was never implemented. It was named after three of its civil servant advocates, Sir Leslie ROwan, Sir George BOlton and OTto Clarke.

    During the winter of 1951-52 in Britain there was anxiety over the balance of payments and the reduction of Britain’s gold reserves. R. A. Butler, the Chancellor, advocated floating the exchange rate and allowing sterling to find its own level and to be convertible. Butler acknowledged that his proposals would end the Keynesian full employment policies of the previous twelve years but claimed that the burden would fall not on Britain’s precarious gold reserves but on the exchange rate. British exports would become cheaper, imports would become more expensive, food prices would rise, as would the prices of raw materials and possibly unemployment would also rise under the scheme. Clarke claimed that a free exchange rate would be ‘painful’ but would impose severe discipline upon British industry because of its exposure to the world markets.
    The most prominent of those who urged for its rejection were a Treasury under-secretary, E. R. Coplestone, and Lord Cherwell, the Paymaster-General. Cherwell argued that unemployment would rise to one million and inflation could increase if the plan was implemented. He also argued that it would be political suicide which would end in disaster.”

    Review of Hennessy’s “Having it so Good” on the 50s by Kennth Morgan

    http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/having-it-so-good-by-peter-hennessy-423603.html

    If Churchill had backed ROBOT, would Thatcher have ever happened? (Footnote: the said Otto Clarke was the father of ex-Home Secretary Charles, now “ashamed to be a Labour MP”

  • Comrade Stalin @ 09:02 PM:

    Except the whole time they were passing on details of aircraft and weapons design to the Soviets

    Who are “they” in this second paragraph? Is that meant to impugn the patriotism of any member of the Government? Do you know of any evidence that Hector McNeil (as far as I know the only possible suspect) collaborated with his private Secretary, Guy Burgess? No-one else does. Or … oh no! not the Golitsyn/Peter Wright canard about Harold Wilson, please! If so, the curse of Trowbridge H. Ford be upon you and yours, because I’m out of here.

    The Cambridge Ring of spies (who were not exposed until the 1950s) were an odd bunch: public schoolboys — Marlborough, Gresham’s, Westminster, an Old Etonian. All from comfortable bourgeois backgrounds, still caught up in the political paranoia of the ’30s.

    Klaus Fuchs was something different: born a Rheinland Lutheran, defected to Britain as an anti-Nazi, taught in Edinburgh, interned in 1939, sent to Los Alamos in 1943. No contact with any Government minister there, surely. When he was caught, he got the maximum sentence for espionage.

    I’d also love to know which members of the Attlee government “regarded the Soviet Union as the model for the direction they planned to bring the UK in”. Bevin took on Vishinsky in 1946, and the News Chronicle poll showed “his popularity went sensationally up … and went up most of all among Labour Party supporters” (that’s quoting George Orwell, by the way).

    Even on the Left we find Nye Bevan critical of the Soviet Union, and unfashionably as early as 1944:

    As Socialists we are bound to in duty to support Soviet Russia when it acts as a progressive Socialist power. But it is equally our Socialist obligation to raise our voice against any attempts of the strong as trampling over the rights of the weak. As Socialists we fight the reactionary ambitions and claims of the Poles; but we must defend Poland’s right to self-determination and independence just as we defend the rights of any other nation oppressed or threatened by oppression.

    The real weirdos (Tom Driberg springs to mind) never came close to the levers of power.

    A different tack to conclude. I owe the Attlee Government one further grace. As a result of the British Nationality Act of 1948 I became a “citizen” and not merely a “subject”. Nice.

  • Brian Walker @ 09:48 PM:

    As I recall, ROBOT was even more sinister and appalling than you outline. It originated from academic debate by Nicholas Kaldor on floating rates, and Roy Harrod arguing for further devaluation. Losing the Abadan oil revenues (and thereby having to buy oil in dollars) was a further motive. As was the steel shortage (a consequence of the rearmament programme).

    Essentially ROBOT came from the Bank of England (Lord Cobbold presiding); and it proposed creating two tiers of sterling. Commonwealth deposits in London would be 90% converted to a 50-year “loan” (ditto 80% of deposits by “other countries”) and only the remainder and any further deposits convertible to gold: this despite assurances given to Commonwealth countries only a few weeks before. Bank rate would be increased substantially (I think it was to be effectively doubled), and the £ would “float” down to $2.40 or so. The remaining subsidies on foods would be cut or even abolished. A hidden advantage might accrue by derailing European cooperation (the Iron and Steel Community). On the other hand the whole of the government’s in-house economists opposed it, expecting it to bring international reprisals and a walk-out of Commonwealth countries.

    And all for why? Because the BoE had got their predictions of currency exchange totally wrong, and were deliberately spooking a timid Cabinet. The BoE was predicting a further fall in gold-and-dollar reserves of $1B over the year, suggesting that this might cause the collapse of the European Payments Union, the IMF, the sterling area, the UK/US partnership: in fact, the reserves stabilised, if not slightly edged up.

    I think Brian Walker may be short-circuiting matters by implying that it was Churchill who slammed the door: Churchill temporised. I believe it was Anthony Eden, back from travels, who forcibly did the necessary.

    A couple of years later, February 1955, convertibility was, to all intents, achieved, almost painlessly. In the interim all the dread inevitabilities, envisaged by the BoE had failed to come to pass.

    Even so, I think that the minutes of the three key Cabinet meetings remain, mysteriously, AWOL. Now there’s a surprise.

  • Brian Walker

    Great stuff Malcolm – you should come to Peter Hennessy’s Mile End Group at Queen Mary. However.. dumping the sterling area earlier might have been good – had it not been for the fact that the price was too high, as you describe. Trouble was, the price of basic reform was always too high until a combination of international and domestic conditions forced it upon them. If only it could have been done at a time of relative prosperity..