There is no Alternative?

A Twitter Poll site wrote this morning: ‘So Deutsche Bank are with the Tories? It’s slipping away Labour’. The election is being conducted as if business backing policy decides all.

As the UK general election approaches you’d be excused for thinking there is only one issue at stake, namely: How deep should the next government cut public spending?

The three main political parties are all agreed that big cuts need to be made in the public sector.  They differ only in how much and where.  The mainstream media purr in agreement.

Such potentially damaging cuts in public services are being sold to us as a necessary evil in order to cut a huge national debt that has swollen to around £850 billion (or 60% of GDP).  This could reach around 100% of GDP by as early as 2012.  At some point this will have to be significantly reduced or a currency crisis (or worse) will be around the next corner.

So there is no alternative to painful cuts in the public sector, right?  If the county is to get out of debt?  Well, not quite.  As Noam Chomsky might say, what has developed around the idea of public sector cuts is a manufactured consensus.  It’s a dishonest manufactured consensus too since all the main political parties and the media know fine well that there are political alternatives.For instance, the cost of renewing and maintaining the Trident nuclear defence system has been estimated to be around £100 billion.  Decommissioning Trident could reduce the national debt by around ten per cent.  The three main political parties know this.  But they also know that eliminating the UK’s nuclear arsenal would jeopardise the UK’s seat on the UN Security Council.  The British state’s ongoing conceit that it is a global power-broker comes at a heavy price.

Then there’s the question of the banks and the financial sector.  You know, the deregulated fast buck merchants who dropped us in the manure.  If any sector of the economy deserves a hefty windfall tax imposed on their profits it’s the banks, the financial sector, and their allies in the City of London.  The financial sector could be stripped off its relative lax tax burden and be made to take full responsibility for their share of the national debt.

Windfall taxes aren’t popular among large corporations.  An army of corporate lobbyists work behind the scenes to make sure the three main political parties steer clear of any form of corporate windfall taxes.  Yet corporate windfall taxes are a legitimate political strategy to raise funds for the government.  Plugging the hole in public finances caused by corporate tax evasion and creative accounting could be made a top priority. But since the media is controlled, by and large, by massive corporations – and corporate tax dodgers like Rupert Murdoch – then it should come as little surprise that media support (or even fair coverage) for corporate windfall taxes is about as likely as Sir Alex Ferguson getting the keys to the city of Liverpool.

Then there’s the question of personal taxation.  If personal taxation was increased across the board then there is a straightforward alternative to public sector cuts.  You get what you pay for. As far as the relative burden of taxation goes, that too could be significantly altered.  Bear in mind that in 1990 – after eleven years of Margaret Thatcher’s government of the rich by the rich – the top rate of taxation was 63 per cent.  That seems positively socialistic compared to New Labour’s lax tax regime which allows the very rich in our society to accumulate even greater wealth.

Then there is the beautiful (but little discussed) alternative of undertaking a massive Keynsian-financed programme of public expenditure to construct, say, millions of good quality affordable public housing.  Enough to end the housing crisis and make every person in the country secure under an affordable roof.  If the bar was set high enough for such an ambitious programme, and its parameters were made very specific in terms of employment and training, as well as involving local communities in the planning, it could not only help regenerate broken communities; it could not only massively reduce unemployment – directly and indirectly – and the massive financial cost of unemployment to the tax payers; but could save billions every year in housing benefit payments to private landlords.

I’m not arguing (here) in favour of all or any of these measures.  My point is that the three main political parties – aided and abetted by the corporate media (and their shallow pool of political commentators) – are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Joe Public.  It is a political fraud played out on a national scale but made invisible by media complicity.

But no matter what the manufactured consensus tries to imply there are alternatives to damaging cuts in the public sector. And some of those alternatives may be much more popular with Joe Public than the three main parties would like to let on.

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  1. Robin Woodburn says:

    Kevin is absolutely correct on this. In fact, if anything, he understates the case. Ann Pettifor, one of the few economists to foresee our current economic woes, has done some splendid work on this and her remarks at will educate anyone who is interested.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Thanks Robin, useful link

  2. Minerva's perch says:

    Kevin, I suspect that you’re speaking for many Scots and perhaps for many in the rest of the UK here. I would argue, though, that whilst I agree with Robin Pemberton and Ann Pettifor to the extent that ‘Keynesianism’ is a necessary antidote to the present crisis, at the same time Keynesianism is itself part of the “manufactured consent” you refer to. There are several features here that I think are worth drawing attention to.

    First, the left needs to exercise caution before recruiting either Keynes or ‘Keynesianism’ (they’re not the same thing), to its cause. I suspect that you might have been thinking of this when you state that, “I’m not arguing (here) in favour of all or any of these measures”. Let’s not forget that Keynes wanted to save capitalism or, better still, he wanted to save capitalism from itself. ‘Keynesianism’ is also not synonymous with deficit financing. Mrs. Thatcher ran more budget deficits than any other prime minister in post-war history, and Thatcherism, both at the time and retrospectively, has been constructed as the British response to the ‘crisis’ of Keynesianism.

    The general point I would make here is that, in terms of Chomsky’s concept of manufactured consent, Keynesianism is part of the problem not part of the solution. By limiting our thinking and our ‘choices’ to the dualism of either ‘Keynesianism’ or ‘neo-liberalism’ we are, in effect, manufacturing that consent. Or as Marx put it, the dominant ideas in any society are always the ideas of the ruling class.

    Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, ‘Keynesianism’ functioned most effectively under the Bretton Woods post-war settlement. That is, among other things, a regime of ‘fixed’ exchange rates, effective capital controls, de facto protectionism (including infant industry protection), prices, wages and credit controls, and so on. Part of the manufactured consensus is that that world cannot be re-created, even many ‘heterodox’ economists subscribe to this. But what is remarkable about this period (1945-73) is that world GDP grew at more than twice the rate that it did in the (neo-liberal) period 1973-2002. In other words, even on its own narrow conception of economic ‘success’, neo-liberalism, in spite of its inflated promises and critique of Keynesianism, has failed.

    One of the consequences of the collapse of Bretton Woods in 1973 has been the extent and speed at which capital markets have been reconstructed. This has resulted in a corresponding increase in the scale and ‘contagion’ effects at which financial crises are transmitted in an increasingly integrated (neo-liberal) ‘global’ economy. Surely one of the great contradictions of this election campaign is that, for over a decade New Labour, and Gordon Brown in particular, have been telling us that governments have limited control over national economies and must accept the imperatives of neo-liberal globalization. Yet here we are, witnessing the main parties trying to convince us that they do, after all, exercise influence over the national economy!

    I don’t share Ann Pettifor’s faith in the capacity of Labour party members to “get stuck in”. In fact, I don’t have any faith that the British are capable of providing any sustainable solution to this and certainly not one that would satisfy the left-of-centre consensus that clearly exists in Scotland. This is one reason why Scottish independence offers the best hope for a new settlement in Scotland.

    Unfortunately, the great strategic failure of the SNP, a long-standing failure which has been most evident in the last two years, is that it hasn’t developed a sufficiently robust social democratic agenda to shape the preferences of the Scottish electorate. The benefits of this, apart from its intrinsic appeal, is that it would have out-manoeuvred Labour in Scotland and addressed the increasing sense of helplessness and powerlessness felt by many Scots in response to the present crisis as well as to Scotland’s inferior position in the UK. Independence is a big idea, it’s true, but it’s not sufficient by itself even if it is rhetorically supplemented by the right noises about ambiguous concepts like “social justice”, “fairness” and so on.

    Alex Salmond’s important point, when introducing the SNPs independence paper, that Scotland needs to “chart a different course” from that being followed by the Westminster parties, was correct but, unfortunately, the SNP does not have enough substance in its policy instruments and objectives to translate this into a clear political agenda to attract enough Labour voters to the SNP. The result? Yet another general election where, in all likelihood, Scottish Labour has Glasgow in the bag and is let off the hook on the back of its putative ‘anti-Tory’ pedigree. It looks as if, once again, inertia, British ‘business as usual’ will prevail over hope.

  3. Scunnert says:

    The stranglehold that the neo-liberal ideology has over the popular imagination is manufactured and maintained by the political classes and the MSM. “Free” markets and globalization are prerequisites for economic success, and any form of “protectionism” will lead to job losses, poverty, and economic collapse we are instructed.

    I beg to differ. “Free” markets and globalization are, in my view, forms of protectionism for international capital and the machinery of transnational corporations. By surrendering sovereignty to political constructs designed by and for the parasitical classes we ensure the perpetual enfeeblement of our communities and nation that would have effect even with independence.

    Under Alex Salmond the SNP have embraced the neo-liberal ideology. While this may have been forgiveable in the nineties, when it was the reigning orthodoxy and to question it would have resulted in being banished the the political wilderness, times have changed. The entire world has seen that the emperor has no clothes – that it is an ideology of the “spivs and speculators”.

    And yet Alex clings to it for comfort. Like a deer caught in the headlights of history he stands transfixed – unable to move either to the right or left. He calls for champions ( ) but who does he choose? Crawford W Beveridge is who. A globalist who believes that “outsourcing of work is necessary for the survival of companies” ( ), that
    privatising Scottish Water should be considered as a way of reducing the Scottish Government’s costs, and that in the search for savings, the pensioners’ free bus pass scheme should be restricted and the NHS should not be exempt from cuts ( ).

    This is Alex Salmond’s “chief” economic adviser apparently!

    While the SNP may put forward some populist policies like scrapping Trident and ID Cards their commitment to continued membership in the EU and other supranational organizations exposes their neo-liberal underbellies. What are the SNP’s views on the GATS Doha deal that would see nations surrender control and sovereignty over the environment, services, and natural resources in perpetuity? What has Scotland been signed up to under that deal? We don’t know as the EU is handling this on our behalf:

    “The EU has for decades been one of the strongest supporters of the multilateral trade architecture and this is the reason why Mr. De Gucht intends to continue to support the creation of a global, effective and enforceable system of rules for open trade.” ( ) The architecture referred to restricts governments at all levels from making public policy decisions and laws in relation to services (and other areas) affecting their own populations which may prove “burdensome” to international investors ( ).

    If Scotland were to build public housing as suggested, under the SNP the contract would go to a German firm, the materials would be sourced from China, and the workforce imported from Poland.

    So what are the alternatives?

  4. Minerva's perch says:

    Scunnert, I agree with much of what you say but not all of it. Your final question is the leading question I think. As I said to Naldo on another Bella thread, how are we going to get from here (where we are now) to there (where we want to be)? Of course, that doesn’t address the trickier question of how can we reach a consensus on where we want to be that goes beyond the truism of not here?

    Any discussion of possible future settlements will, by definition, be vulnerable to the criticism of utopianism. This was one reason why Marx, for example, had more to say about the ‘inevitability’ of socialism and less about depicting in any detail what that society would look like. At any rate, if our perspective on Marx is to see him as some kind of nineteenth- century Nostradamus, we are destined to be disappointed.

    What we seem to agree on are two fundamental points that have long been recognised particularly by the left. That is, that capitalism produces regular crises and societies that encourage individuals, by various means, to pursue their own self-interests will, ultimately, be self-defeating. Marx, of course, would have agreed with both of these points, recognising that they are connected. Keynes would have agreed with the former but not the latter. I would single out Marx and Keynes because I think that they both understood capitalism better than any other previous or current thinkers.

    As you know, there are many ways of depicting what capitalism is. My own preference, as a point of departure only, is to acknowledge that capitalism is a mode of production wherein we produce goods and services for the capitalists, in exchange for which we receive wages and salaries so that we can buy back from the capitalists the goods and services that we produced for them in the first place. Further, in spending these wages and salaries, we are exhorted to demand ‘value for money’. The irony of this exhortation appears to be lost on most of us in a modern capitalist economy. Having said that, most of us have, at least, an intuitive sense that something isn’t quite right with this arrangement. Or as the economist Joan Robinson put it, “whether capital itself is productive or not can be debated later, but what is not beyond doubt is that the ownership of capital is not productive”.

    In other words, capitalism is a money economy not a barter economy. Goods exchange for money or money exchanges for goods but goods do not exchange for goods. But crucially, and this is one of the many things that we can take from Marx, production is an inherently social activity which, in capitalism, is and must be individuated. From there, the whole Marxist edifice of the exploitation of labour power, commodity fetishism (well-complemented by Keynes’s effective theory of liquidity fetishism in a money economy), the reproduction and competitive accumulation of capital and so on can be built. There are various reasons though, why we can’t just make the leap from our present path of development to a post-capitalist society. You have touched on some of them in your post. But as the sociologist Emile Durkheim in his classic book, ‘The Division of Labour’, put it, “Just because there are laws doesn’t mean that there is nothing for us to do”.

    I wasn’t suggesting that Scottish independence is a panacea. I hope that this was clear from my previous post. My point is that independence, among other things, creates the potential for a momentum of change in Scotland and that the SNP, as the party best placed at the moment to secure Scottish independence, has failed to out-manoeuvre Scottish Labour. Here, your point about the SNP not challenging the neo-liberal consensus is critical. I was making a similar point, that is that the vague aspiration to “chart a different course from the Westminster parties” is not enough. But again, as I suggested on another thread to Naldo, we mustn’t invest all our hopes in political parties.

    The part of your post I have most difficulty with is your concluding paragraph. You seem to be advocating autarky here. I don’t think that’s realistic or, more importantly, desirable. I mean if you live on a desert island it’s inevitable but Scotland is not a desert island. More seriously, trade, markets and money predate modern capitalism by millennia. It isn’t trade, markets or money that are the problems, rather it’s the form that these take in capitalism that are the problems.

    I also don’t think that it’s helpful to suggest that the work on the prospective public house building programme would be done by “Polish workers”. First, because it isn’t true but, even if a proportion of that work was done by Polish workers, why is that a problem? If Alex Salmond was to take the Gordon Brown/BNP line of “Scottish/British jobs for Scottish/British workers” I, for one, would take that as grounds for campaigning against the SNP. But, to his credit, although he has said some foolish things in his political career, he wouldn’t resort to scraping the bottom of that barrel in a cheap claim for votes and I think he should be commended for that. From the substance and tone of your final paragraph here though, I suspect we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this issue.

  5. Kevin W says:

    MS – “More seriously, trade, markets and money predate modern capitalism by millennia. It isn’t trade, markets or money that are the problems, rather it’s the form that these take in capitalism that are the problems.”

    I wholehearetdly agree with this and tend to think that this is the point that the traditional Marxian left have failed to grasp.

    The economy of any country uses a currency, good and services are exchanged using that currency, wages are paid in that currency.

    Therefore the starting point for any futurepolitik, whether socialistic or in the case of Scotland, independence, begins with a discussion of what currency will be used, which institution will be responsible for regulating the supply of that currency, and who will have control over that institution.

    Are we at that stage either in the independence movement, or on the left?

  6. Minerva's perch says:

    Kevin W, “Are we at that stage yet either in the independence movement, or on the left”? As you well know, of course we’re not. There is a great deal of pessimism on the left, much of which derives from the belief that so-called ‘historical socialism’ is dead – that is, to put it crudely, that the working class in advanced capitalist societies would develop a revolutionary consciousness and overthrow capitalism. In the last hundred years we have seen peasant revolutions, nationalist revolutions and even religious revolutions but nothing that remotely resembles a ‘proletarian’ revolution.

    The great Polish Marxist, Rosa Luxemburg, captured the Marxist dilemma beautifully when she wrote that, “social conditions of proletarian existence in contemporary society, conditions first elucidated by Marxist theory, take vengeance by the fate they impose upon Marxist theory”. Capitalism excels at naturalizing its social relations of production, distribution and exchange and it might be said that nowhere is this more evident than with the elusive nature of money. Capitalism has left most of us like the fools in Shakespeare’s ‘Timon of Athens’ who go to the hills in search of Timon and his gold. When they find him, Timon’s response is priceless: “Your greatest want is you want much of meat. Want, why want? Behold, the bounteous housewife nature on each bush lays her full mess before you. Want, why want?”

    Keynes was an elitist not because he went to Eton (the young Keynes can hardly be blamed for that) or because he was a Cambridge Apostle (even Cambridge intellectuals needed to have their fun). He was an elitist because he upheld the right of the ‘authorities’ to control monetary policy and, of course, because he upheld the right of the elite to govern. Marx has his own crosses to bear here too though. For example, Marx would not allow his daughters to fraternise with Engels’s domestic servants. The difficulty of achieving ‘class solidarity’ between the Marx and Engels households in late-nineteenth century London ought to have served notice that ‘international’ class solidarity would require a much longer run-up than Marx envisaged.

    History is littered with the corpses of individuals who thought that they understood the nature of money. Compare Marx’s critique of Proudhon’s “time-chit” money in the ‘Grundrisse’ with Keynes’s critique of Silvio Gesell’s “stamp-scrip” money in ‘The General Theory’. But we do know that although money is an abstract measure of commensurability, it does not and cannot comprise the substance of commensurability. Marx understood this and this is one reason why he developed his theory of the exploitation of the commodity labour power in capitalism. Where labour power is understood both as the physical, intellectual, emotional etc effort that we all put in to the goods and services that we produce, and as the commodity that we exchange for a wage or salary in capitalism which, for the duration of time that we work for the capitalist, the capitalist ‘owns’. From there, Marx reached the conclusion that it is labour power that produces value and that it is the values produced by the commodity labour power that comprise the substance of the commensurability of all values in capitalism. Money is an abstract measure of that commensurability. This is open to all sorts of objections of course but it’s difficult to find a conception of value and of capitalism that is an improvement on Marx’s.

    To address your question more explicitly, I would return to the point I made earlier. In little old Scotland, we can only start from where we are and try to reach a consensus on where we want to be (and how we’re going to get there). Monetary reform is needed and must be a central part of the democratisation of Scotland which, in my opinion, is one of the main, though not the only, reasons for supporting Scottish independence. Democratic economic governance and how we are going to achieve it is something that we all need to address. We need to re-claim Scotland and ensure that we do “chart a different course from the Westminster parties” for, as soon as the Westminster parties are given the opportunity, they will simply restore ‘business as usual’.

    This is one reason why I think the establishment of a People’s Convention on Scottish Independence, entailing a wide participatory debate, perhaps in preparation for, or in tandem with, the debate on the SNPs referendum on independence would at least constitute a start. But it’s imperative that as many people as possible contribute to this debate and that it operates on the principles of anti-elitism and no ‘leaders’. Is this utopian? Maybe, but I prefer Max Weber’s perspective on history and politics, in the concluding paragraph of his classic essay, ‘Politics as a Vocation’ Weber stated: “All historical experience confirms the truth – that man [and woman] would not have attained the possible unless time and again [s/]he had reached out for the impossible”.

    On re-reading an earlier post, I’ve just realised that I wrongly addressed Robin Woodburn as “Robin Pemberton” – my apologies, Robin, for confusing you with the former governor of the Bank of England. Damned with faint praise!

  7. Scunnert says:

    MP writes: “I also don’t think that it’s helpful to suggest that the work on the prospective public house building programme would be done by “Polish workers”. First, because it isn’t true but, even if a proportion of that work was done by Polish workers, why is that a problem?”

    I don’t think one can assert that a prediction “isn’t true” until it has failed to happen. What I think you meant was that it is unlikely. However, the precedent has been set ( ) and if it proves profitable will be used again.

    It’s a problem because it marginalises local folks within their own communities. More, I would say it disenfranchises them. When a social need is turned into a commodity and sold on the international market to the lowest bidder, that debars the active participation of those whose need it is, and which brands them as xenophobic and racist if they complain, is the sordid depths of capitalist manipulation.

    One strength folks have in their struggle with international capital is there sense of ownership over “their bit”. They feel empowered to complain if things are happening not to their liking. They share a sense of comradeship with their neighbours as they suffer the same fate, and will mobilize to oppose infringements of their perceived rights, or activities that would impact negatively upon their community. This can be a problem for corporations which seek to maximize returns for their shareholders in the most efficient manner possible.

    The modus operandi of international capital:

    1. Take government as far away from those being governed as possible – geographically, temporaly, and intellectually.

    2. Sign “your” people up to as many binding international economic agreements as possible.

    3. Replace workforces with transient workers from far away.

    The first removes local folks from decision making. The second enfeebles them in perpetuity. The third dispenses with them all together.

    In Canada the Federal and Provincial Governments have been trying for decades to find a way of breaking up traditional communities as they are difficult for business interests to exploit. They tried in the seventies but met fierce resistance. Today they are at it again and will probably have some success: ( ) But to improve their chances they first thought it prudent to brand these folks as racist: ( ).

    Oh aye – xenophobes the lot!

  8. Minerva's perch says:

    Scunnert. “I don’t think that one can assert that a prediction ‘isn’t true’ until it has failed to happen. What I think you meant was that it is unlikely. However, the precedent has been set and if it proves profitable will be used again”.

    No Scunnert. What I meant was that it isn’t true. What you were arguing was not that it was likely to happen but that it would happen. That is, you were arguing that if (a) the government goes ahead with the public housing programme then (b) the workforce would be imported from Poland. What I was arguing was if (a) not (b) but (c), therefore (b) is untrue, where (c) includes the possibility that a proportion of the workers might be imported from Poland.

    You can’t use a single “precedent” to generalise about future employment policy. Or, let me put it another way. Suppose you compare all the examples in the last three years where the Scottish government has (profitably) employed, exclusively or largely, Scottish workers with your single precedent of the Italian and Portuguese refinery workers. Why take the single precedent of the latter as your guide for future employment policy rather than the numerous examples of the former?

    Or put it another way. Why stop at the public house building programme? Why not go on to argue that all future NHS appointments that the Scottish government can profitably make will be nurses, doctors, ancillary staff etc imported from Bangladesh and the Phillipines? Or that all the future civil servant appointments that the Scottish government can profitably make will be workers imported from Australia and the United States. The point I’m making is that, of course, you’re entitled, like the rest of us, to argue anything that you want but your premises and conclusions need to be convincing if you want people to agree with you.

    As for the rest of your post, as I said previously, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this issue.

    1. Scunnert says:

      MP, I have no problem with folks disagreeing with me.

      “Why stop at the public house building programme? Why not go on to argue that all future NHS appointments that the Scottish government can profitably make will be nurses, doctors, ancillary staff etc imported from Bangladesh and the Phillipines? Or that all the future civil servant appointments that the Scottish government can profitably make will be workers imported from Australia and the United States. “

      My argument wasn’t that the Scottish government would ever do any of these things but, would actively collude in facilitating the conditions under which transnational corporations can force open service sectors for their exploitation. However, since you brought it up, this is already happening in the NHS: ( ) and work previously done by civil servants is now done in India ( ). Here’s an example of SNP outsourcing that is absurd in the extreme: ( ).

      Under EU legislation the Scottish government can’t control where a corporation sources its employees as long as they’re EU citizens. Under GATS ( ) they could be from anywhere ( ):

      “When a government fully commits a service sector in its Schedule of Specific Commitments, Article XVI on Market Access and Article XVII on National Treatment apply. Under national treatment rules, members agree to eliminate legislation which favours domestic companies over foreign corporations. So, for example, a government which has agreed to full national treatment rules for its tourism sector could be challenged by another WTO member for granting concessions to firms committed to employing local people. This would be seen as discriminating against foreign companies, on the grounds that they might find this a more difficult condition to meet than domestic businesses.”

      Unfortunately, the left in the UK seems to have confused international capital with international socialism ( ).

  9. Robin Woodburn says:

    I’m all for the overthrow of capitalism. If someone’s got the recipe, could you just jot it down? I’ve been thinking about it for 40-odd years and, although my plan is near complete, I seem to be missing some element to make it water-tight.

    I haven’t got the answers to the questions you’ve all been asking, nor was I putting forward Keynes as an antidote to our problems. I really just wanted to support Kevin’s contention that our leaders are peddling a very-highly constrained set of policies that don’t address our needs, and the main one is cuts in public services. My main disappointment (although why I’m surprised, I don’t know) is how easily the newspapers and TV news programmes have fallen into line. Journalists seem incapable of asking the most elementary questions about our economy such as: why have we poured so much money into the finance sector, and was it a good thing to do? The mainstream parties, including the SNP as noted in previous posts, are silent on these issues. So I am wondering how we might address this lack of debate. Not that I have any answers myself.

    I can confirm, under the pressure of interrogation, that I am not now, nor have I ever been, Governor of the Bank of England. But what seems clear to me is that, if credit is some kind of social good, and control of the economy is in the hands of people who scoop wealth into their pockets in good times and demand that we all bail them out in bad, then we need to change that. And change is not going to come if debate on our options is completely stifled. Which it currently is, in spades.

    Would independence help? I have no idea. In my optimistic moments, I think yes, but in my pessimistic ones, I worry that we would just be swopping these self-serving eejits in London for Brian Souter and the board of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Not an improvement, in my opinion.

  10. Minerva's perch says:

    Scunnert, “MP, I have no problem with folks disagreeing with me”.

    That’s just as well Scunnert, for the more you post, the more disagreeable you become.

    Of all the good reasons for opposing capitalism, your belief that capitalism is, among other things, effectively a global conspiracy to displace ‘native’ workers and replace them with ‘foreign’ workers is not only the most odious, it is the most wrong-headed. I’m all for debate, freedom of speech and exploring possibilities for change in Scotland, but you can’t have a debate with fundamentalists like yourself and it’s tiresome to keep drawing attention to the deficiencies of your posts. Hence, this will be my final contribution.

  11. Scunnert says:

    MP Says:

    “…the more you post, the more disagreeable you become.”


    ” … your belief that capitalism is, among other things, effectively a global conspiracy to displace ‘native’ workers and replace them with ‘foreign’ workers is not only the most odious, it is the most wrong-headed.”


    ” … you can’t have a debate with fundamentalists like yourself and it’s tiresome to keep drawing attention to the deficiencies of your posts.”

    Okay – I can be disagreeable at times – I admit it. But your characterization of my posts as “odious”, “fundamentalist”, and “deficient” is rather melodramatic don’t you think? Your conflation of my hyperbole as fundamentalism suggests to me that you take yourself far too seriously. That you find my posts distasteful is, I fear, typical of the so called “progressives” in their failure to deal with the national question.

    Your contention that I believe in: ” … a global conspiracy to displace ‘native’ workers and replace them with ‘foreign’ workers is not only the most odious, it is the most wrong-headed.” is unfortunate in its timing, as it comes within days of ONS reporting that almost every new job created in the UK since 1997 has gone to foreigners. But why let data get in the way of a comfortable belief system.

    While you present yourself as a leftist and a nationalist you fail to confront the very real nature of international capital in its quest to remove sovereignty from nation states. You are silent on Scotland’s continued membership in that most undemocratic of institutions the EU, and have “no comment” on the GATS negotiations, off shoring/out sourcing, or indeed any issue I’ve raised other than my jibe re: “Polish Workers”. Far from pointing out “deficiencies” in my posts you have evaded debate almost entirely. I must conclude that you are more comfortable proffering abstractions and are not very good at reality.

    While I may be disagreeable you sir are a windbag!

  12. Minerva's perch says:

    Ok Scunnert, you win, this is my final post.

    I’ll tell you where a small part of my “reality” comes from. I grew up in a community which was largely white and working class. There weren’t many black faces and there weren’t many ‘foreign’ workers. But there was a Polish family who ran the corner shop. They were the salt of the earth and not only because they seemed to extend endless lines of ‘tick’ to my and many other hard-pressed families. Why do I get the horrible feeling that you might take this example as a cue to assert that this only proves your point – ‘rich’ Poles/’poor’ Scots?

    I now live in what you, Scunnert, might (?) disparagingly refer to as a ‘multi-ethnic’ community. And you know what? I love it, and no matter how many times you asked me which community I would prefer to live in, I would always choose to live in this community rather than the one I grew up in. As one of the commentators on the last link you posted said, I guess that (in his/her eyes) makes me a “traitor”.

    I cut my ‘political teeth’ in the Workers Party of Scotland in the late-1970s. As a young teenager then, my ‘mentor’ was the late Tom Murray in Edinburgh. Tom, among other things, was a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, he fought on the right side, at least as far as I’m concerned. I remember the first time I visited Tom’s house in Viewforth, I sat in an armchair and looked up at the collected works of Stalin, proudly placed on the edge of his bookcase. Even in those days, as a youngster, I knew enough about Marxism to know that this wasn’t a good sign. I needn’t have worried though. Tom wasn’t perfect but he had many qualities, some enemies and a lot of friends.

    I learned a lot from Tom about political commitment. One of the things I learned from him was that you can’t negotiate with the far right. We used to sell John MacLean pamphlets at the Mound and we sometimes fielded the bigoted taunts, and occasional violence, of an assortment of infantile fascists, Orangemen and Hearts/Rangers supporters. I don’t know about taking myself too seriously but I do take the threat of the far right seriously. I did then and I do now.

    The first time in my life that I was truly ashamed to be Scottish was a few years ago when the young children of ‘asylum seekers’ in Edinburgh were dragged out of their beds in the early hours of the morning and incarcerated by the British. I’ll never forgive ‘Scottish’ Labour for their defence of those actions. It’s bad enough that we collaborate with the British to attack ‘foreigners’ in other countries, but that we should (expressly or tacitly) conspire with the British to attack ‘foreigners’ in Scotland as well is something that brings (or ought to bring) shame on all of us.

    The reason I haven’t debated the EU etc with you is because you don’t really want to debate the EU. What you want to do is to impose your pernicious agenda onto this debate. Why should I encourage that? Another reason why this really is my final post on this thread.

    As for your assertion that I’m a “windbag”. Get a grip Scunnert. I’m Scottish, I’m a leftie, and I support Scottish independence. By definition, I’m a windbag! That’s what’s funny about the far right though, even their insults lack imagination and wit.

  13. Scunnert says:

    MP, you misinterpreted my meaning from the first and took a throw away hyperbole as an indication of some “pernicious agenda”. You live in a diverse neighbourhood. Good for you. I live in a diverse family many of whom are black and various other shades. They come from four continents and speak many languages including Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian and Trini. No Poles though – but not because I hold any offensive views about them – I know lots of them and they’re great folks.

    But you thought you smelled a racist – admit it – so you deserved a wind up (that’s not to say I don’t hold strong views on the subject of immigration) because you really were coming across all pompous. Your very last, final post was you’re best BTW. You dropped the posturing and came across as a real human being.

    Well done you.

  14. naldo says:

    Haw, MP, you put up some good arguments. Have you thought of writing yer own blog?

  15. Minerva's perch says:

    Naldo. A friendly voice at last!

    “MP…Have you thought of writing yer own blog”?

    Looking at my posts on this thread it occurs to me that some wit might be tempted to reply: ‘Naldo, he already has’ (just thought I’d say that before someone else did).

    I’m a bit of a technophile I’m afraid, don’t even own a mobile phone. It’s a long time now since Georg Simmel wrote that, in cities, “our physical contacts are close but our social contacts are distant”, God knows what Simmel would write today. I could get my twelve year-old to show me – what he doesn’t know about technology isn’t worth knowing – but I think he’d lose patience with me.

    But other people do it so much better than I could. For example, have you checked out Lallans Peat Worrier? He’s not to everyone’s taste, I don’t share all of his politics of course but I think he’s very clever and he’s funny, though sometimes he seems to be ploughing a lonely furrow. I had an hour to spare a few weeks ago and I sent in a post as ‘Anonymous’ where I compared Ian Gray to the reckless lover in a few lines from Mark Alexander Boyd, but Lallans’s own post, which prompted that response, was spot on. I like him. I’ll settle for reading Bella though. Disagreement is stimulating and challenging but there’s something uniquely uplifting when disembodied ‘voices’ agree with each other.

    Better bugger off now before you know who comes back, just thought I owed you the courtesy of a reply. In anticipation of the libertarian left’s revolution: ‘Windbags of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your Scunnerts’.

  16. Minerva's perch says:

    Oops. “Lallands” Peat Worrier.

  17. Minerva's perch says:

    Ooeroops. “Technophobe” not “technophile” – never mind the technology, I can’t even get the bloody word right!

  18. Scunnert says:

    “Better bugger off now before you know who comes back, just thought I owed you the courtesy of a reply. In anticipation of the libertarian left’s revolution: ‘Windbags of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your Scunnerts’.”

    I invite both Mp and Naldo to debate membership in the EU, Scotland’s obligations under GATS, multiculturalism, and immigration on my blog.

    Email your contributions to: [email protected]
    and they will be posted without alteration on my blog.

    Or are these issues closed to debate in the Scottish “progressive” agenda? I really don’t expect a response from intellectual cowards but you never know:o)

  19. Minerva's perch says:

    Scunnert, now who’s taking themselves too seriously? If I’ve succeeded in shifting this debate onto your own blog that’s good (I’m sure others will thank me!), and if I, or anyone else, want an update on your own position I’ll know where to look. This is a win-win situation. You can say whatever you like, it’s your blog after all, and us “progressives” need never have our delicate sensibilities offended again. On the debate itself, immigration is not a salient issue for me, and I suspect, many other people, (see below).

    Now why do you think that is? Is it because of my “comfortable belief system” or my delicate sensibility on a ‘sensitive’ issue like immigration, or is it because I’m a “traitor”, or is it my false consciousness or just plain stupidity? Here’s a thought. There was widespread unemployment, low pay, poverty and inequality in Scotland before any EU migrants arrived and there will be widespread unemployment, low pay, poverty and inequality in Scotland after they have left (as many of them will). What conclusions might we draw from this?

    Or maybe it’s because I live such a comfortable existence that I can’t see the “reality” of which you speak? Wrong again. I’m not low-paid now but I’m certainly not well paid either. I used to earn low pay. Not in the Polly Toynbee sense (God bless her), that is, leave your well paid job for a few months to work in a low paid job so that you can write a book about it and, when your ‘stint’ is over, return to your well paid job. But low paid in the sense in which people then and now are low paid. That is, where your wages on Friday, after a fifty-hour week, don’t amount to very much and you know that your wages every week for the foreseeable future aren’t going to amount to very much either. I was lucky, I managed to find slightly better paid employment. And there’s hardly a day that passes where I don’t think to myself: what can I do today to make a small, admittedly insignificant, contribution to creating the kind of society where the low paid don’t have to rely on luck to improve the quality of their lives?

    It never occurred to me to blame my situation on migrants. Yes, that was before Schengen and EU enlargement. And yes, Schengen and EU enlargement provide a number of major challenges to Scotland and other EU countries. I suppose one of the many differences between us is that, if I’ve understood you correctly, you want Scotland to have control over immigration and border control so that we can stop new EU (and other?) migrants entering Scotland, I want us to have those controls so that we can encourage migrants to come to Scotland. The contribution that migrants make to Scotland’s/Britain’s economy and culture is conspicuous by its absence in your posts. Is migration always and everywhere an entirely negative phenomenon? Is the flip side of limiting/preventing new EU migrants entering Scotland that Scots will be limited/prevented from leaving Scotland to work or live in other EU countries, or elsewhere for that matter?

    Some ideas can do some funny things to people and people will use the same idea for different purposes. Immigration is one of those ideas. It was St Paul who said “He who will not work shall not eat” (II Thessalonians 3.10). Max Weber cited this in his ‘Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’, Lenin cited it in his ‘State and Revolution’. From the New Testament, to Weber, to Lenin, and on to our contemporary variant of Workfare. If nothing else, Paul’s imperative demonstrates that the pernicious distinction between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor was not an invention of the Victorians, far less Mrs. Thatcher or New Labour. But whereas Paul, Mrs Thatcher and New Labour used this idea to attack the ‘undeserving’ poor, Lenin used the idea to attack the undeserving bourgeoisie, a prototype, if you like, for Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

    Or let me put it another way. Terry Eagleton has a ‘halitosis’ theory of ideology (in his book ‘Ideology’). That is, ideology is like halitosis, it’s always something that the other person has. In accusing me of being blind to the “reality” of EU migration, you are effectively accusing me of being ‘ideological’ – my “comfortable belief system”, my delicate “progressive” sensibilities. You, of course, are above all that, you are not being ideological (in Eagleton’s sense). For you can see “reality”. In an earlier post you even advertised your powers of prophecy. How can I compete with that? Though it’s a funny thing about prophetic ideologies, they always involve a bloke with a beard. Have you noticed that? Whether it’s Christianity, Islam or Marxism, it’s always a bloke with a beard. Do you have a beard Scunnert?

    On the issue of the EU, there is so much I’d like to say about the EU but, again, it doesn’t involve immigration. Like many Scots, I have mixed feelings about the EU. But I would hardly align myself (albeit more loosely than some others) with the Scottish libertarian left on the one hand and argue, on the other hand, that an undemocratic and alienating institution like the EU, which (well before Lisbon) was promoting neo-liberalism, is a great thing. I do support the principle of closer European integration – a principle that can be traced back to Dante in the fourteenth century – but not like this. And whereas I would argue that an independent Scotland offers the potential to democratise Scotland I don’t hold out much hope for our capacity to democratise the EU.

    I notice that the IPPR has recently published a report, ‘Explaining the Roots of BNP Support’. The report is based on samples from a population from 150 local authority areas in England and the authors do emphasise that their methodology did not extend to measuring intra-district variation which might have yielded different results. But I like the point they make in their conclusion. They state that, “However, in places where people have had significant contact with migrants, most are not concerned enough by immigration to vote for the BNP”. Some ideas are better left to speak for themselves.

    By all means publish this on your blog and it would be great if you could put your reply there too.

  20. Scunnert says:

    MP – I thank you for your response and you will find it posted on my blog unaltered. I will tomorrow, consider and post my reply. In the meantime I will only say that you misinterpret my views.

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