Social and Economic Policy

Mick Brooks and expropriating the banks

Longstanding socialist and Labour Party activist Mick Brooks (1948-2021), who died in January as a result of complications from Covid-19, was co-author with Michael Roberts of the Fire Brigades Union’s 2013 pamphlet on public ownership of the banks and high finance, It's time to take over the banks. (The two also ran regular Karl Marx walking tours in London.) In the face of multiple convulsive social crises, the demand for public and democratic control of finance is more relevant and urgent than ever. Mick continued to vocally and actively make the case for it. For those who did not know him...

Requisition Big Pharma!

Governments have financed the Covid-19 vaccines, by subsidies for research and trials and preparing production facilities, by advance orders before it was even known whether the vaccines would work, and by exempting the pharmaceutical firms from risks of court cases if something goes wrong. The labour movement should demand that governments now requisition the “intellectual property” produced with that finance — i.e. make the patents available to any competent producer. There is already a mechanism for that, set up by the World Health Organisation eight months ago, the Covid-19 Technology...

Seize wealth to mend inequality!

The impact of the pandemic has been worsened by, and in turn worsened, many forms of economic and social inequality. In Solidarity 578 I summarised evidence from the Marmot and Deaton reports. As the Marmot report puts it: “mismanagement during the pandemic, and the unequal way the pandemic has struck, is of a piece with what happened in England in the decade from 2010 [i.e. the period of ‘austerity’]… Since then, with the Covid-19 pandemic, the world has changed dramatically. But in England the changes have been entirely consistent with its existing state when the pandemic hit…” Even the...

Sunak plans for mass poverty

The New Economics Foundation says the percentage of people getting less than the Minimum Income Standard is set to grow from 30% in September to 34% in April 2021. The percentage on less than 75% of the MIS will grow from 16% to 19%. Labour’s metro-region mayors are demanding the government expands its income support schemes. The mayors are working with the NEF to call for a “Minimum Income Standard”, ensuring everyone gets at least £320 a week, or £227 excluding rent and childcare. The mayors’ demands are not radical, focusing on “plugging holes” in the furlough and self-employment schemes...

The digital, Covid and new ways of living

The 2021 edition of the Socialist Register is entitled “Beyond Digital Capitalism — New Ways of Living”. It’s about how an increasingly digitalised capitalism works and alternatives across a wide range of human activities. Whydigital capitalism? Firstly, because of the increasingly central role of the tech sector in the economy, seen through both a growing economic dominance of monopolies based on digital platforms and the increased use of digitised forms of production, distribution and exchange. The top four largest tech companies — Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook — now account for 20%...

To curb the virus, reverse the cuts

The UK’s virus infections are now rising faster than France’s and Spain’s, and are at a higher level (relative to population) than Spain’s. The government’s measures, since infections started rising fast again in early August, have had little effect. The Tories are set to close bars and cafés again, in large areas at least, and maybe soon for a new lockdown similar to spring’s. In Ireland, which has a lower rate of infection increase than the UK, the government’s scientific advisers have already proposed a new general lockdown, not yet implemented. Lockdowns (with suitable arrangements for...

Letters: What about musicians?; Full employment; NEU can prepare strikes

Full employment In the arguments about job cuts, we need Full Employment as the driver of economic policy across the board, not profitability, financial markets, or the growing wealth of the richest. Sunak says we will have to put up with millions of unemployed to “save the economy”. He does get criticised by Labour and left for not supporting jobs, but the fundamental idea that you can separate the health of the economy from the number unemployed has been internalised by the labour movement after 40 years of neoliberalism. Full Employment speaks to general working-class consciousness as a...

More Brexit means more US-type capitalism

New UK-EU talks on Brexit are due to run through the week starting 5 October, and prime minister Boris Johnson says he wants a deal outlined by 15 October. That looks unlikely. The EU has already started suing Britain for legislating to break the Withdrawal Agreement previously signed with the EU. Big gaps remain between the UK and the EU on Northern Ireland, on state-aid rules, and on fishing. The Tories say that they are happy with a “no deal” Brexit as fallback — meaning, in fact, a period of chaos following by a scramble for new trade deals, especially with the USA. Their basic drive is to...

Jobs or retraining on full pay!

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn. About three million workers are still on furlough, on government-supported temporary pay while their work is suspended by the pandemic Furlough is due to end on 31 October. If it does, and is replaced by the Tories’ new “Job Support Scheme” (JSS), many of those three million will be thrown out of work. With the JSS, the boss who thinks trade will be poor for the next six months but revive later will be better off sacking half their workers than keeping them all with half-pay plus JSS...

Virus: indict the Tories

In Britain as in other countries in Europe, detected SARS-Cov-2 infections have been rising slowly since early July, and now faster since points in August. In France, the rise has been much faster. In Spain, it has already fed into a rise in Covid-19 deaths, though so far only to a rate about 5% of the April peak. From mid-April through to early July, infection levels fell fairly steadily across Europe. The fall was not reversed, halted, or even visibly slowed by limited lockdown-easing measures across those months, notably the reopening of schools in many countries. The obvious explanation...

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