love nor money: unpaid work at tesco

Sharon Borthwick looks at the absurd ideology behind last month’s row over workfare schemes

What a joke to have a national minimum wage if you are then allowed to pay your employees nothing at all. “Stacking supermarket shelves is better than dreaming of stardom via TV’s the X Factor”, smarms Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. For a quiet man he doesn’t half come out with a lot of shit. What of young persons more pragmatic dreams, to gain paid employment after education?

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“The idea that we should allow a bunch of extremists to get in the way of providing genuine, voluntary help for young people is just crazy” says the indignant Chris Grayling referring to the successes of left groups including Boycott Workfare and Right To Work in either getting firms to withdraw from or postpone their involvement with the government’s workfare programmes, including Mandatory Work Activity whereby claimants can have their benefits withdrawn for thirteen weeks for not working for zero wages  for eight weeks. Continue reading “love nor money: unpaid work at tesco”

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book review of phillip blond’s ‘red tory’

by Sebastian Wright

Two events intervened just prior to my reading of Phillip Blond’s ‘Red Tory‘, which made me doubt the necessity of the exercise. The first was the publication of Jonathan Raban’s wonderfully enjoyable lampooning of it in the London Review of Books, under the title of ‘Cameron’s Crank‘. Whilst Raban is a bit hard on Blond’s writing skills (personally, I think the book is pretty well written; its more the dubious intellectualism at fault) he does a great job of cutting to heart of the parochial, nostalgic sentiment that prevails throughout. In the same issue of the LRB, John Gray reviews a book by Tim Bale on the Conservatives from Thatcher to Cameron, and concurs with Bale’s assessment that, in regard to the Red Tory retreat to socially conservative anti-liberalism, ‘Conservatism of this kind spells potential disaster for Cameron and his party.’

Phillip Blond, Red Tory-in-chief

Which leads to the second point. This ‘disaster’ seems to be unfolding in front of our very eyes. With the Blond-inspired ‘Big Society’ idea apparently falling flat on the election trail, and inverse rhetoric about the ‘broken society’ also not winning over many fans, Cameron has recently decided to adopt a tougher, more conventional Conservative message, evident in the Conservative party’s billboard promising to cut the benefits of those who refuse to work. Continue reading “book review of phillip blond’s ‘red tory’”

the capitalist state and the debate over cuts

by David Broder

The Labour Party’s pre-election budget has focussed attention on ‘the recovery’. In his speech to the House of Commons last Wednesday Chancellor Alistair Darling outlined a plan of government action to restore economic growth and reduce the British state’s borrowing.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats have somewhat different plans to Labour about the best means of achieving these objectives. However, what is rarely challenged, or even discussed, is the underlying consensus which structures the whole debate: the very idea of ‘the economy’ and a collective national interest. So how should communists relate to this debate? Continue reading “the capitalist state and the debate over cuts”

the cuts consensus and the general election

by Dave Spencer

The 2010 general election will be a watershed for the politics of the British left.  Business as usual will not be an option because of the scale of the attacks on the working class that are coming. No matter which party wins the election or even if there is a hung parliament, it is clear that the ruling class has decided to make the working class pay for the economic crisis and the bailing out of the banks.

The left groups have failed over 14 years to form a united alternative to New Labour. If they use the same methods and politics as in the past, they cannot possibly be up to the tasks ahead. Continue reading “the cuts consensus and the general election”

tory co-ops mean privatisation

by Gregor Gall

The longstanding cross party consensus on cooperatives has taken a nasty turn. Traditionally, all the main parties have all supported – albeit a token way – the ideas of cooperatives.

For ‘old’, social democratic Labour, this has been about supporting workers and extending industrial democracy. Here the notion was that workers should be supported when they try to buck the outcomes of the market, even if cooperatives were a far from perfect means to do so. Continue reading “tory co-ops mean privatisation”

the continuing assault on the unions

by Bill Butlin

As the general election approaches both the Labour and Conservative parties aren’t saying much about what they plan to do to trade unions. Why is this?

The silence reflects a pro business consensus in the two main parties, that ‘disorderly’ and ‘illegitimate’ collective action by workers is a pathology that harms business, employees and the consumer. And was it not that son of Thatcher Tony Blair himself who boasted loudly that ‘The Labour Party is the party of modern business and industry in Britain’? Continue reading “the continuing assault on the unions”

we’re not ‘all in it together’: no to austerity britain!

editorial of The Commune

The message hammered home at the Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat conferences was clear: ‘we’ have been living beyond our means and now have to accept slashed public spending to steady the ship of state.

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While a few months ago even the mainstream press railed against the excesses of the City of London and corrupt MPs, today their fire is directed almost solely against working-class living standards. The only questions on the papers’ and pollsters’ agenda are ‘what should be cut?’ and ‘who do you trust most to make the right cuts?’. Continue reading “we’re not ‘all in it together’: no to austerity britain!”