Margaret Thatcher’s Biscuit Tin – and Austerity

Margaret Thatcher’s Biscuit Tin and the Austerity Scare

From Pam Field and Syzygysue

The Austerity Scare is the greatest myth, by which the rich have deprived others of their basic needs of survival (Maslow), by some argument that those are unaffordable. How can it be justified to deny anyone these basic human rights, while others have vast resources far beyond their own personal needs? This wealth, and hence power was gained  by the systematic acquisition of resources by unjust means, much as the barons claimed land to be their own.  (Primary accumulation – dispossession of low income people from their high value land). By what right can anyone claim to have a right to own earth when others cannot?

Benn EstablishmentHaving power of the law permits reinforcement of privilege so that attempt to brainwash the public  through whatever means is available – education, press, advertisements, commercialisation  – or force. So the very rich have the means to control all the sources of food and sustenance, the media, the security and defence. Fear of destitution leads to social division, and of course with disunity no resistance can be effective. What needs to be done to redress the imbalance?

There are sufficient resources on this planet for everyone.  Oxfam  believes there can be enough food for everyone…

IF we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger and help the poorest families feed themselves

IF governments stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries, so that millions of people can free themselves from hunger

IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land and we grow crops to feed people not fuel cars

IF governments and big companies are honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food.

It is shameful that in Britain, the seventh richest nation, has 25% of children living in poverty, many people are homeless and one million people are relying on food-banks. It is a scandal created by gross mismanagement, or by wilful neglect. The Tories recall the Victorian days of Empire, like the cheering and flag waving Falkland task force, without addressing the fundamental truth.

 Any society can only measure its wealth by the poorest, and its strength as the weakest.

Having seen the horrors man can inflict on man in WW2, there was a united resolve which followed that it should never be repeated, and a determination to build a fair society fit for everyone. Rationing was accepted after the war to ensure a fairer distribution of scarce resources. Meanwhile Attlee’s Labour government invested in full employment, massive house building, a welfare state and National Health Service. There was a growth in the economy, despite the ravages left by war.

“The psychology of competition and love of Peace are uneasy bedfellows” Aneurin Bevan

One of the saddest legacies of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership must have been the destruction of optimism in society, the killing of compassion, and comradeship, and communities.  It was replaced with isolation, resentment and fear engendered by soaring unemployment, caused by destruction of manufacturing industries while attacking on trade unions, so making the working class further malleable by the ruling elite.

The idea that the nation’s wealth was somehow like the family budget, pennies hidden away in a biscuit tin in the larder, just to be taken out and spent on a trip to Margate when the factory shuts down for a fortnight in August, can be understood as people prioritise their needs by similar means.

So, unbelievably, Margaret Thatcher sold the idea to the nation, that the money which the government has to spend on schools and hospitals, is like the microeconomics of a family budget, or the ins and outs of her parents’ grocers shop. And since that time the biscuit tin idea comes into play, “There’s no money left” as Cameron carried that piece of paper to hustings in May. “The nation can’t afford it, we’ve all got to tighten our belts.”  “We’re all in it together!”

Now, where does wealth come from? It comes from the labour, skills, arts, and talents of people, from research, technology and from the natural  resources of the planet. Did Margaret Thatcher expect the nation to believe that they can be parceled up and saved in the biscuit tin?

Biscuit tin

As the cuts to basic provisions became chipped away, so fear sets in, the law of the jungle, competition, scrambling to get to the top, developing addictions to more and more material goods to satisfy a lack of something fundamental – happiness. It might seem a cliché, but this is the background to the shallow, inadequate shells we are becoming, soulless commodities suspicious of some others and hatefully despising the rest.

“The successful as well as the unsuccessful are unemancipated in the competitive society” (Bevan)

It doesn’t have to be like this. Of course money is not hidden away in some virtual biscuit tin, no longer gold hidden in vaults to be hauled from place to place. Austerity is totally unnecessary and we can change it at will once we accept what is wrong.

Money is a tool by which goods can be shared around ensuring management of resources, rewards for labour and supply, and trade.  Money doesn’t originate  from the taxpayer. It comes from the government spending.  The US dollar and the UK pound are sovereign monetary systems under control of their respective nations.

Neoliberal economics have led to the greatest inequalities in human history, based on the mystique, that market forces will adjust to give the best possible outcomes.

Considering the unhappiness, poverty, and isolation, in what sense is the current state of the UK, the best of all possible worlds?

We are told that there is no money left so that public services must be privatized and government spending cut but the actual problem is that corporations are hoarding their profits, not investing in well-paid jobs in the real economy and instead are chasing fictitious capital.

Real wages have not increased since the 1970s and consequently there is insufficient demand in the economy, and increasing levels of personal indebtedness.  Forget the national debt, it is household debt that is the real danger!

This is the slowest recovery of GDP per head on record. See graph (Touchstone Blog)

As Simon Wren-Lewis writes:

Anyone who continues to describe what is happening in the UK as a ‘strong recovery’ either has not bothered to look at the data, or is being deliberately deceptive.’

What is desperately needed is not ‘Austerity’, but a fiscal stimulus and if the banks and the corporations will not invest in the real economy, then the government should act as ‘lender of last resort’.  In other words, a stimulus such as that proposed by Jeremy Corbyn, with investment in jobs, the NHS, education and mitigating climate change.

The allegorical Frank Baum story “The Wizard of Oz” reflects clearly how the pursuit of the yellow brick road “gold”, leading to the “Emerald City” revealed merely that there was no magician, just a helpless, powerless man who admitted the capitalist ideal was a fallacy. The main characters had lacked belief in their own limitations, lack of courage, brain or heart, and believing therefore that others had power. And in that idea, we can see that economy needs to be run for the benefit of the people, not according to the vagaries of the so-called ‘wisdom of the markets’.

So what is necessary is that

… First we need to accept that economy is something which sovereign governments have the power to organise.

… The financial system has been abused for too long.  It needs to be under democratic regulation and control.

…The economy needs to be balanced and controlled to allow people and societies to function sufficiently so that all members can afford the essentials of Maslow, live comfortably, with a little bit extra for everyone to enjoy their leisure.

…There needs to be a commitment to full employment.

… Basic needs such as food, water, energy, transport, health and education need to be under democratic control.

IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF GOVERNMENT to ensure adequate distribution of these services. Therefore nationalisation, and/or transparent democratic control is necessary.  To treat food, water, and medical supplies as commodities to be gambled with is an obscene and unacceptable concession to the very rich.

Cutting spending during recession/depression only delays or forestalls a recovery.  The allegory of Alice in Wonderland describes falling down a rabbit hole, and seeing the world differently, and that is what is needed – the opposite of austerity. Jeremy Corbyn’s Peoples’ Quantitative Easing is about the government producing money, as we have our currency, the government can do that,  but instead of this going to private banks, this money goes directly to the people wherever it is needed – for building, homes, schools, hospitals – and creating jobs. In other words, a responsible state in which everyone would have access to needs being met, and poverty eradicated.

We are told that the deficit is too big but the reality is that it is still too small.  Inflation is only a risk once the last unemployed/underemployed person who wants or needs a job is employed.

Since private companies are not providing sufficient employment, we need government to invest in a job’s guarantee, a buffer stock.  This would have the advantage of underpinning a living wage that the private sector would have to match in order to attract workers.  It would also allow individuals to maintain or upgrade their skills.  It would decrease the mental health problems associated with unemployment, and finally, it would mean that all sorts of worthwhile activity, which would not be undertaken by the private sector, could occur.

The anger and  resentment has been smouldering for a long time. The lack of opposition to neoliberalism and austerity has disillusioned the electorate, so many no longer see any point in even voting.  In August 2010, riots broke out in English cities, in London, and Birmingham. This August, Jeremy Corbyn has reached the ordinary people,  and has channelled that anger in such a way that people are united, and we are a witnessing the greatest political force in 64 years, a tidal wave which can sweep away neoliberalism and bring our communities back. The Labour Movement is reborn. At last, there is hope.

The politics of divide and rule, of resentment and ” benefit scroungers ” is where we have lost our way.  It is not about politics of envy.  It is about the politics of justice. We need brave political leaders to reunite our communities, put away the law of the jungle, and bring back the Spirit of ’45, the sort of social cohesion which followed WW2.

The biscuit tin myth has to be tackled,

and the sooner , the better.

Not one will be forgotten: the lies that take us to war

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Not one will be forgotten: the lies that take us to war

By CJ Stone, previously published here 

War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.

George Orwell

For the past weeks I’ve been delivering British Legion letters to the people of Whitstable.

You will have seen them. The envelope shows a picture of a bunch of First World War British Tommies, kitted out ready for war, with their helmets and their rifles, smiling and carefree, on their way to the front. It’s obvious that none of them have seen any action as yet or they wouldn’t be smiling. By the end of the war most of them will be dead, wounded or severely traumatised.

Above the picture are the words “Over one million men fell”, and below it, “Not one shall be forgotten.”

One forgotten

How disingenuous this sentiment is. It is obvious that we’ve forgotten them or we wouldn’t still be sending our troops to foreign parts in order for them to kill and be killed.

How many more of the dead must we remember before we realise that war is always the problem, never the solution, and almost invariably based on lies?

The world’s first national propaganda organisation was the Ministry of Information in the UK, created during the First World War in order to mobilise public opinion in favour of the war.

One of its great achievements was in characterising the Germans as barbarians. It called them “the Hun” and, in one famous case, accused them of having bayoneted babies during the invasion of Belgium in 1914. That was a lie.

Later the lie was repeated. In 1990 an anonymous female calling herself Nayirah told the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in the USA that she had seen Iraqi soldiers throw Kuwaiti babies out of incubators, where they would be left on the floor to die. The testimony was used by the President of the United States to justify American involvement in the First Gulf War.

That too turned out to be a lie.

We all remember the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Apologists for the Second Gulf War now characterise that as a mistake, saying that everyone agreed that Saddam was hiding weapons. This is another lie. I remember seeing reports at the time clearly debunking the evidence, while Robin Cook, Leader of the House of Commons, resigned saying he did not believe there were any weapons. Later David Kelly came out with talk of the evidence being “sexed-up”.

Both Robin Cook and David Kelly died in mysterious circumstances.

More recently there is evidence that the threatened slaughter of civilians in Benghazi, on which the 2011 No Fly Zone over Libya was based, was also a lie.

Lies, lies and yet more lies.

Now here is the truth. War is profitable. War makes money, for the arms industry, for the weapons manufacturers, for the security services, for the sub-contractors employed to rebuild the country. War is essential for the capitalist economy. It is through war that public money is funnelled into private hands. Without war, all the research and development into the high tech industries couldn’t take place. We’d have no computers, no internet, no digital revolution. War is the means by which public finances can be put at the service of the private economy. It is Military Keynesianism.

Keynesianism argues that a constant injection of public money into the economy is necessary for economic stability. In post-war states, that meant money for infrastructure projects, for hospitals and housing, for the welfare state. Military Keynesianism has no need of such wasteful expenditure. Why put money in the hands of the people? It uses the state machine to siphon the money directly into private hands using security issues as its means. Hence the need to keep us constantly on the alert. Hence the need for lies.

It’s the same people who argue for deregulation and privatisation of our public services who also drum up the hysteria about foreign threats and the need to combat terrorism. You want to know how to stop the threats against us? Stop threatening them. You want to know how to stop terrorism? Stop participating in it.

The latest war in Syria is just another in a long line of manufactured threats, and there’s already been a number of notable lies.

One of them was the massacre at Houla. The first time we heard about it was when the media reported that 108 civilians in the village had been killed by shell fire. To illustrate the atrocity the BBC showed a photograph of several rows of dead children wrapped up ready for burial. Except that it quickly emerged that these photographs weren’t from Houla at all, but had been taken in Iraq almost a decade earlier.

‘Somebody is using my images as a propaganda against the Syrian government to prove the massacre’, said photographer Marco Di Lauro, whose photo it was.

Nevertheless the propaganda onslaught continued, for several weeks, suggesting that the Syrian government had been involved in the murder of civilians. It was only later that the truth emerged, in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, that actually the victims had been pro-government Alawites murdered by the rebels and then used as anti-government propaganda. Needless to say, while the initial reports were front page stories, the later retractions were buried in the small print or not mentioned at all.

More recently we’ve had the story of the chemical attack on Ghouta, which I’ve written abouthere. This has also been exposed as a lie.

So next time you hear of a supposed threat from an embattled, weakened and severely impoverished third world nation, remember: War  is the mechanism by which our masters control us. It is the means by which we are enslaved.

Harry Patch, Britain’s last fighting Tommy, said of War that it is legalised mass murder.

And while it is legitimate to think of the dead of the two World Wars at this sombre time ofremembrance, it is also right to temper our reflections with the knowledge that the justification for most of these wars has been based upon fabrications, and that our soldiers did not die for freedom, or democracy, or any of the other platitudes, but to serve the interests of the few.