Social and Economic Policy

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...

Building our solidarity against their G7

Former Labour leader Gordon Brown cites a figure of $33 billion (£23 billion) urgently needed before the end of 2021 for vaccines, virus-testing, and PPE this year, and maybe the same in 2022. That’s just 0.08% of the yearly total revenues of the G7 rich countries who met in Cornwall on 11-13 June. “Instead”, as Brown says, “they offered up about $7 billion worth of vaccines”, some 870 million doses in place of the 11 billion needed this year. They could donate more doses now through the Covax scheme, and help to build new facilities to produce and roll out vaccines, but they don’t. US...

Tony Blair's new manifesto

I have just got round to reading Blair’s latest piece of writing in the New Statesman, partly because I really didn’t want to read any more of what he had to say. However, in the spirit of an open mind I read through the three pages of Blair philosophy. I can’t say I found anything in it to bring joy or hope to my heart. He seems determined to trash all the ground that the left has built up and is completely unwilling to see older left-wing philosophy as something to be cherished and fought for. He rightly speaks of free education in quotation marks, as everything ultimately needs to be paid...

The underside of plutocrat philanthropy

Tin-hat conspiracy theory claims that vaccinations are a ploy by Bill Gates to implant tracking microchips in our arms communicate at least two lies. There’s the obvious lie, that vaccines contain microchips. Then there’s the subtle, implicit lie: that Bill Gates is helping net global vaccination efforts. Way back in April 2020, Oxford University pledged that they would make any technologies that they develop against the Covid-19 pandemic available under “non-exclusive, royalty-free licences to support” free or cost-price supply. They only pledged to do this for the duration of the pandemic...

Build back fairer: tax the rich!

Robert Watts, who compiles the Sunday Times Rich List of the thousand richest individuals and families in the UK, feels obliged to comment on the 2021 List: “The fact many of the super-rich grew so much wealthier at a time when thousands of us have buried loved ones and millions of us are worried for our livelihoods makes this a very unsettling boom.” There are now 171 billionaires in the UK, up from the previous high of 151 in 2019. Their wealth has risen 21.7% during the pandemic, to £597.2bn. Between 2008 and 2009, the total wealth held by the Rich List fell as a result of the financial...

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