Social and Economic Policy

Increase pay, training, and open borders

The Confederation of British Industry is concerned about labour shortages, especially in areas that could impact on food supply. They want the government to make it easier for migrant workers to come to those jobs in the UK. The government’s response is that they should hire British workers. But, even leaving aside the nationalism here, the work talked about most in the press is HGV drivers. The other jobs the CBI identifies labour shortages in are butchers, construction workers, engineers and IT specialists. None of those jobs can be done by someone immediately. Some jobs listed as having...

Tax the rich for social care, pensions, benefits

Care and Support Workers Organise protest in Manchester on their day of action, 4 September TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady is right to respond to the talk of National Insurance increases by arguing that “it’s time to raise taxes on wealth to fund social care properly”. A section of the right is are using phrases like “intergenerational fairness” to justify removing the triple lock which guarantees substantial increases in the basic state pension (by average earnings, inflation or 2.5%, whichever is higher). Others say that social care should be funded by squeezing older people more...

Command-economy growth

Environmental devastation in the Soviet Union Tony Southwell (Solidarity 603) is right that calling on capitalist states to reduce our consumption for climate reasons is hopeless. And he’s right that a socialist planned economy could dampen the drive for people to own more “stuff” (more cars, etc.) He suggests, though, that Stalinist-type planned economies could also avert the “more stuff” compulsion. I can’t believe that the growth-target focus of those economies was just coincidence that the individual choices of the bureaucrats all went that way. Their system was organically tied to...

Momentum hides banks policy

In April members of Labour left organisation Momentum voted in a “policy primary” for motions to promote for this year’s Labour Party conference. Two of the eight motions decided called for public ownership and democratic control of the banking and financial sector. Yet as XR’s action targeting finance and climate change unrolled, on 27 August Momentum social media put out a video with economist Grace Blakeley calling for “regulation” of the banks to tackle climate change. The Facebook status and tweet promoting the video also call for “regulation”. Not public ownership or democratic control...

Is socialist revolution possible? Is it desirable?

At the Workers' Liberty summer school, Ideas for Freedom, on 10-11 July, Ruth Cashman debated John Strawson on "Is socialist revolution possible? Is it desirable?" Ruth Cashman We live in a murderous system of inequality and exploitation. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in every 13 children dies before their fifth birthday, the vast majority due to health conditions linked to malnutrition. The number of child labourers stood at one hundred and sixty million at the start of 2020, which is an increase of 8.4 million child labourers in four years. From January to June 2021, it was estimated that 827...

Get socialists organised!

What do we mean by socialism? More here The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a right-wing think tank, is mildly alarmed. It takes its new research indicating that young people are mostly sympathetic to socialism seriously, and urges supporters of capitalism not to dismiss it as “social media hype”, temporary “student radicalism” or a “passing fad which ended with Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation”. It calls its findings a “wake-up call” and a “challenge”. They are also, and even more, a challenge for socialists. The research commissioned by the IEA involved polling just under 2,000 people in the...

What is socialism?

In our editorial this week we argue to “get socialists organised”. What do we mean by socialism? We fight for emergency policies, like taxing the wealth of the super-rich and public ownership of key industries and corporations, to allow action to halt and reverse ever-greater inequality and to slow down climate change. We fight to build a stronger workers’ movement, including trade unions, to win these steps. But the wealth of the super-rich and their power to increase it are deep-rooted in the fact that they own and control the main systems for producing wealth, giving them control over the...

Tory "levelling up" is pork-barrelling

Boris Johnson’s 15 July speech on “levelling up” soon levelled down to oblivion, as the government floundered through its Covid restriction-easing. Yet the theme is likely to continue, in a particular way. The Tories are on a “culture war”. The USA shows that even when average opinion is edging more liberal and leftish (as in the UK, and in the USA too, since 2009), such “culture war” may become politically potent by mobilising a minority which “radiates” effectively. But only “may”. In the Hartlepool and Batley-Spen by-elections, the Tories didn’t campaign on “culture war”. They left that to...

Starmer's feeble Big Idea on jobs

On 3 July Rachel Reeves and Keir Starmer launched their new economic Big Idea: “ask every public body to give more contracts to British firms big and small”. So far this feeble Big Idea (only “asking”) has been saved from the derision which overwhelmed the “I’m backing Britain” campaign of then Labour prime minister Harold Wilson in 1968, but only by attracting little comment of any sort. In any case, what is a “British” firm? One owned by a British boss? What if most of its production chain is overseas? Yet a non-British-owned firm has most of its workforce in Britain? Should we expect other...

Automation will not abolish work

Aaron Benanav’s book Automation and the Future of Work is aimed against what he calls the automation discourse. He defines this as a belief that high levels of technological unemployment will result from the introduction of new technology and that we will soon be faced with a largely automated economy. Such ideas can be found both on the left and right. Benanav rejects both their economic analysis and the political solutions such as Universal Basic Income (UBI) most commonly proposed to deal with the fallout from automation. I welcome Benanav’s riposte to the recent flurry of predictions of a...

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