The Guardian is going downhill. That may seem like a strange statement to make - after all, how much ‘hill’ is left? But it is important because for many years now The Guardian has been the main daily newspaper that the ‘left’ - liberals and socialists - read. It’s a form of lesser evilism - what else is there?
However, I noted two front-page, main-headline stories in the last week or so. On July 16 we had: ‘Labour offers to end anti-Semitism legal action’. This is a well-known and shameful move - not a capitulation, but a notice that the Labour leadership is well and truly on side, so don’t worry Trump, Pompeo, Johnson: we’re right behind you!
So what about The Guardian? They had three reporters on the job and they give ‘the facts’: “The whistleblowers sued”. “They claimed senior figures had issued statements … suggesting they had ulterior political and personal motives to undermine the party”. No judgment on the truth or otherwise of claims or motives. ‘Not me, guv’ is The Guardian’s position: we didn’t lead the witch-hunt, Corbyn lost - nothing to do with us. The article goes on to state: “Ofcom rejected 28 complaints against the [Panorama] programme for alleged bias.” So was there bias? The Guardian has no position on that: they are just reporting the news.
After this front-page news story, on page 13 we have: ‘Labour pain. How crisis came to engulf party’. Under a picture of Sam Matthews, looking almost in tears, we have the background. Several claims are made, all of them vigorously disputed by socialists in the party, but barely a whiff of that here. The usual ‘tropes’ are trotted out: John Mann accuses Ken Livingstone, high-profile resignations over ‘anti-Semitism’, Chris Williamson, Seumas Milne, Jennie Formby - it’s all here (well, some of it is).
There is a pattern. An assertion is made, quickly followed by another one and then another. Any doubt over the first assertion is drowned by new assertions - so many that they must be true. We have a whole world created and it must be true: we don’t need to examine evidence.
The other story, on the following day (July 17) was: ‘Russia tried to steal virus research and interfere in election, says UK’. Well, “the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said Russian state-sponsored hackers were targeting UK, US and Canadian organisations [regarding] Covid-19 vaccine”. First off, why would they need to? Surely any civilised country managing to develop a vaccine would immediately share it with the world to overcome the pandemic. It would appear that the Russians feel that they might be left out - who would have thought it?
The other accusation is that, according to Dominic Raab, “Russian actors had ‘sought to interfere’ in last winter’s election by amplifying an illicitly acquired NHS dossier that was seized upon by Labour during the campaign.” It’s a bit reminiscent of the original ‘Russiagate’ accusation, though in this case they are not claiming that Russia did the hacking: merely that they “sought to interfere” by “amplifying”.
A different tack is taken regarding the US though: according to the Democrats, the Russians were working for Trump! But over here, never mind that the Tories are willing to sell off what’s left of the NHS to US companies - the Russians were working for Corbyn!
That Putin is a nasty piece of work cannot be denied - he showed that in Chechnya and continues to show it day by day - but interfering in US elections? At every new stage of the Russiagate assertions there have been different theories put forward and, for every serious and honest observer, there have been doubts about the source of said assertions. After all, if you can’t trust the authors of Saddam Hussein’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’, who can you trust?
There is also the little matter of ‘interference in elections’. Perhaps a coup doesn’t count? Obviously the US government had nothing to do with ‘interfering’ in events - to take a couple of recent examples, how about Honduras and Bolivia? Perhaps pigs can fly!
But back to The Guardian. They’re only reporting, of course, including the statement that “Labour stands ready to work cross-party to protect our nation’s security”. So that’s all right then - good on you, Sir Keir. In an opinion piece on an adjacent page Luke Harding says: “Dominic Raab confirmed yesterday what everybody already knew: Vladimir Putin’s spies are busy trying to interfere in British democracy.”
I thought that the main thing that everybody ‘knew’ was that Russian oligarchs have been pouring money into Tory coffers, as well as using the UK’s incredibly weak financial laws to launder their money into dodgy fake companies and London mansions. Trying to break the news that the Tories want to let the US companies have the NHS doesn’t come into it.
The attack on the Labour left is serious and is part of a long campaign by The Guardian to support Israel, and thereby US-led foreign policy, at all costs. The attack on Russia is perhaps even more serious. It is difficult, reading reports coming from the US, to decide which war the Democrats especially - along with the ‘intelligence community’ and the GOP - want to wage most. Russia, China? Or perhaps a little warm-up with Iran or Venezuela.
In any case, we clearly live in dangerous times and the need for working class newspapers to tell the truth and to do a bit of investigating gets ever more urgent.
The ‘equal opportunity’ principle is based on the presumed possession of equal skill. For example, in universities people with social learning disabilities are disadvantaged by there being no social safety net, which disempowers their academic learning.
The equal opportunity system, because it is so universal in its application, does not possess the financial resources or the selective power of individual action to admit that individuals have been let down by the institution, which should use budgetary means to finance a second chance at academic opportunity from within the university budget. The equal opportunity principle, like so many shibboleths of society, may sound fair in a discussion on the principles of theoretical justice, but in practical application, lacking the means to correct the failures through voluntary or compulsory retrospective action on the part of institutions, it is simply a pointless exercise.
In reforming the university system, those people who possess technical and naturally encyclopaedic skill should be prioritised over those social mixers who do possess the ability to obtain employment in the normal run-of-the-mill occupations. The idea that everybody should have the practical opportunity of a university education is wrong, because it diverts money and support away from those individuals - many with social disabilities - who find it tough enough already, without policymakers flooding the country with degree-holding graduates and depriving those academically minded but socially awkward people, who failed at university through no fault of their own, of the opportunity to keep trying until they reach the desired outcome of rewarding employment.
Quite often these undergraduates come from working class backgrounds and are marginalised by the gown-wearing academic professionals, who have such a fanatical hatred to changing institutional policy that, when polite and well-argued challenges are made to their shibboleth of equal opportunities, they refuse to change the system and enable individuals who didn’t do well to try again with the support that they needed.
It is too often overlooked by the left that in universities the socially awkward individual is not at the mercy of a sink-or-swim, laissez-faire, rightwing administration, but a supposedly tolerant and fairness-loving liberal or leftwing one. It is so wedded to the idea of universal opportunity that by its own intellectual design the system is compelled to ration funding and presume that individuals can succeed at the first attempt - a proposition that you would expect from the libertarian right, not the liberal left.
The ‘sink or swim’ ethics of the economic market can often be tackled, but those of social institutions such as universities cannot without the individual or institutional desire to provide provision for the redress of failure often brought about by the insistence, even when challenged, on maintaining the equal opportunity principle in practice. In universities this does nothing but rig the system against those who have next to no alternative for meaningful endeavour other than writing and living on social security payments.
I do not expect many Weekly Worker readers will agree, but at least you are prepared to publish challenges to the philosophical addictions of the equal opportunity-loving egalitarians of the liberal left. I shall pose a question that should stir some contributions: “Is it time to lay equal opportunities to rest in the graveyard of ideas?” I welcome the articulate correspondence that will surely come from readers.
It’s really difficult responding to someone like Maren Clarke, who is so confused and blinkered that she simply translates black as white. She begins her latest maelstrom of mistakes and misconceptions by accusing me of being confused, and of being guilty of the very thing I had accused her of doing. But just reading what she then says shows that is ludicrous, and that she clearly had not read or understood what I said - just as she seems not to have read or understood what Marx wrote.
She says that I claim that workers have no ownership rights as “associated producers” over socialised capital, but that it is the way the bourgeoisie have developed laws of corporate governance that gives them such rights. That is the direct opposite of what I said! What I said, following Marx, in Capital volume 3, chapter 27, is that, in relation to socialised capital, no individual has ownership rights, because it represents the abolition of capital as private property - or, as Marx puts it in Capital volume 1, chapter 32, “the expropriation of the expropriators”. This socialised capital belongs to the company itself, which, as Marx points out, can only logically consist of the “associated producers” within it, at any time: ie, its workers and managers. What I then went on to say is that this collective ownership by the “associated producers”, which is apparent in the cooperative, as they exercise control over it, is denied to workers in joint stock companies, precisely because the bourgeoisie have given control over that capital to shareholders! In other words, the direct opposite to what Maren claims I said. With someone so confused, and unable to understand simple statements set down in black and white, it makes further discussion a bit futile, but I will try to persist.
The argument she is disagreeing with is not my argument, but that of Marx and Engels. It is Marx who in Capital volume 1, chapter 32, in discussing the natural process of accumulation of capital, and its consequent concentration and centralisation, describes how it results in this “expropriation of the expropriators”, as the monopoly of private capital is burst asunder, and replaced by the domination of this large-scale socialised capital (that he describes in greater detail in Capital volume 3, and along with Engels in Anti-Dühring).
It is Marx who sets out that the joint stock companies as much as the cooperatives represent such socialised capital, and as such represent the transitional form of property. Nor is that something he discusses just in chapter 27. The whole discussion of the development of interest as a separate form of revenue to profit, as a deduction from profit, like rent, of the division of the capitalist class into productive-capitalists and money-lending capitalists, from chapter 21 onwards, leads to this conclusion.
Maren also does not seem to have read or understood any of those chapters, because she says: “The shareholders receive a share of the profits, created by the labour of others” - which shows that she has absolutely no idea what form of revenue the dividends the shareholders receive are, as distinguished from profit or rent, or profit of enterprise! The landlord, who charges rent to the capitalist, after all, obtains revenue, which is a “share of the profits created by the labour of others”. The whole basis of Marx’s analysis is completely lost on Maren, who appears to have gone back to a Smithian or Ricardian view, in which surplus value and profit are synonymous. She seems to have no idea that dividends are simply a form of interest payable on the money-capital loaned to the firm by the shareholder, just as the coupon on a bond is interest, no different to the interest paid to a bank for a loan! To quote Marx from chapter 14, in relation to stock companies, they “yield only large or small amounts of interest, so-called dividends after all costs have been deducted”.
The whole point here, set out by Marx, is that not only is interest/dividends a separate form of revenue to profit, and to profit of enterprise, which is the return to the productive capital: the shareholder is also not the owner of the productive capital of the business, but is only the owner of the money-capital they have loaned to it, just as a bondholder or bank is the owner of the money-capital they loan to businesses, and on which they too obtain interest. In fact, Marx makes clear, in chapter 23, that such lenders of money-capital, including shareholders, stand in no relation to labour whatsoever, but only in an antagonistic relation to the productive capital itself, and to the functioning capitalists that are its personification. He makes clear that that is true, whether the socialised capital takes the form of a cooperative or corporation.
A share certificate is merely a debt instrument, the same as a bond, or a loan agreement with a bank. The shareholders are merely owners of those certificates - not of the company’s capital, which belongs to the company itself. And, it’s not just Marx and me who say that. As I pointed out, bourgeois theorists like John Kay and Aubrey Silbertson also admit that. It is only Maren who wants to persist in defending the shareholders’ right to claim ownership and control over productive capital they do not own.
Maren’s statement that she believes that workers have to seize the means of production is then an indication that she simply has not understood Marx’s theory, or his application of it in Capital, because what Marx demonstrates is that, objectively, the workers already do own the main means of production, because they now consist of this socialised capital. What they do not have, other than in relation to the worker cooperatives, is control over that capital. It is that which they must obtain, and it’s true that that can only be done on a class-wide basis, because, at the very least, it requires a workers’ government to repeal the existing laws on corporate governance that give control to shareholders over capital they do not own.
Because Maren does not understand or rejects this aspect of Marx’s theory, she is left denying Marx’s comments about it representing a transitional form of property, and claiming that the whole thing was made up by Engels and Kautsky after Marx’s death - which leaves us wondering why Eleanor Marx did not protest, and why all of the researchers who have examined Marx’s notebooks since have themselves not brought to attention this bowdlerisation on the part of Engels and Kautsky. And, that, of course, deals with Maren’s further pathetic attempt to draw back from her ridiculous statement, by claiming that what she really meant was that something had “got lost in translation”
The person guilty of misrepresentation here has been Maren Clarke, not me, as the above illustrates, and what is lost in translation seems to be what Marx and Engels and I write down in black and white, and what Maren reads and understands - or at least what she claims to understand, when formulating her responses.
With London rents falling by eight percent since February, we are about to witness the long-predicted collapse in house prices in the capital and further afield. In 2005, both The Economist and the Warwick University Business School predicted a collapse in house prices. The Economist even had a 12-page supplement on it.
The reasons the collapse has been postponed until now are threefold: first, the arrival of three million migrants from eastern Europe into the UK has buoyed up demand for rented accommodation; second, the bailing out of the banks by the Bank of England following the 2008 credit crunch prevented large-scale default by mortgage payers; third, the nearly zero interest rates have led to a boom in buy-to-let purchases as an alternative pension plan.
Because no government would allow a collapse in house prices, what we are going to see is an invisible crash, until it becomes obvious to everyone. As house prices fall, we will see estate agents saying, ‘Get in quick before house prices rise again’. With very few sales, property-owners will have no option but to rent them out. This will lead to a further fall in rents. Despite the low interest rates, it will be cheaper to rent property than to rent money in the form of a mortgage.
The collapse in rents and house prices in London will temporarily boost rents and house prices outside London, as hundreds of thousands of people move out of London. However, the collapse in London will eventually lead to a collapse in rents and house prices in the rest of the UK.
Houses will again be seen as a place to live rather than a tax shelter and alternative pension plan. As with all financial bubbles, house prices and therefore rents could decline by 80% over the next five years.