[Marxism] U.K.’s Labour Party Lurches Sharply Left on Economy

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Sep 25 07:01:05 MDT 2018

(Those expecting the Democratic Party to come up with something like 
this after electing a majority of Sandernistas are just kidding 
themselves. Labour is capable of taking such a left turn because of its 
institutional roots in the labor movement. Even tainted by Fabianism, it 
is nothing like the party that rested on slavery and Jim Crow for over a 

NY Times, Sept. 25, 2018
U.K.’s Labour Party Lurches Sharply Left on Economy
By Stephen Castle

LIVERPOOL, England — Britain’s opposition Labour Party laid out a 
blueprint on Monday for a sharp leftward turn in economic policy, 
gambling on the readiness of voters for a big expansion of the state’s 
role in the economy.

“The greater the mess we inherit, the more radical we have to be,” the 
party’s economic spokesman, John McDonnell, told Labour’s annual 
conference in Liverpool to loud applause.

Under the plan, firms with 250 employees or more would set aside a 10th 
of their shares for their workers, 10.7 million in all, who would 
receive up to $650 a year in dividends. Mr. McDonnell also proposed 
nationalizing critical utilities, giving a third of the seats on company 
boards to workers and making firms prove that they paid their rightful 
share of tax.

Labour’s economic agenda has surprised some with its boldness and put 
the party on a collision course with business groups. But that is 
unlikely to faze a leadership that says it is rediscovering the party’s 
socialist roots and believes that voters will trust a left-wing agenda 
to redress some of the failings of a decade marked by stagnating real 
wages and poor productivity growth.

Mr. McDonnell even joked about his reputation as a left-wing firebrand, 
referring to recent comments by the Most Rev. Justin Welby, the 
archbishop of Canterbury, calling for a more inclusive form of capitalism.

“Just a few words of advice though, archbishop,” Mr. McDonnell said. 
“When they get around to calling you a Marxist, I’ll give you some tips 
on how to handle it.”

Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s most left-wing leader for decades, the 
party performed better than many expected in a general election last 
year, depriving Prime Minister Theresa May of her parliamentary 
majority. In most opinion surveys, Labour is now a few percentage points 
behind Mrs. May’s Conservative Party, which is so divided over plans for 
Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, or Brexit, that there is 
speculation that another election could be called soon.

Labour’s conference has been overshadowed by pressure on the leadership 
from members and unions to endorse a second referendum on Brexit. But 
Mr. McDonnell suggested that even if there were to be a new vote, it 
might not give voters the choice to remain in the European Union. Later, 
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, contradicted Mr. 
McDonnell, saying the party was not ruling options out, including that 
of a second referendum with “remain” on the ballot.

Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Corbyn prefer to talk about an economic agenda 
designed to roll back the austerity politics of the last decade — 
policies that have helped move Labour to the left of the social 
democratic positions it adopted under the previous Labour leaders, Tony 
Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband.

“The balance of power at work has been tipped against the worker,” Mr. 
McDonnell said. “The result is long hours, low productivity, low pay and 
the insecurity of zero-hours contracts,” which let companies decide from 
day to day how much paid work, if any, an employee receives.

Promising to press ahead with nationalization, Mr. McDonnell identified 
water and sewerage companies as the first targets, saying that 
shareholders would be compensated with bonds. While most staff members 
would keep the same jobs, those of senior executives and directors would 
be filled at significantly reduced salaries. Energy utilities and postal 
and rail services would also be nationalized.

His other big proposal would apply to companies with more than 250 
workers, who would transfer 1 percent of their shares each year to 
“inclusive ownership funds” that would ultimately control 10 percent of 
the stock.

Business groups were unimpressed. “With Labour’s current proposals, the 
fallout for the U.K., its workers and customers would be a drop in 
living standards,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the 
Confederation of British Industry.

“At a time of great uncertainty, this is no way to build the foundations 
of competitiveness and productivity that will improve people’s lives,” 
she added.

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said 
that the “overwhelming majority of business leaders are as frustrated as 
anyone about poor wage growth, sluggish productivity and corporate 
governance failures.”

Nevertheless, he added, “the answer will not be found in sweeping 
measures and angry rhetoric.”

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