Little Red Blogger

This blog looks at radical politics(with a libertarian socialist slant), music and culture. Marx to Mises, Girls Aloud to Steve Reich...

Location: Wiltshire, United Kingdom

Sunday, April 24, 2005

I'm Back(Lots of re-locating gubbins!)

Due to relocating to sunny Bournemouth my blogging activities have somewhat interrupted but having located an internet connection I'm back!

The general election campaign has been continuing apace and the issues have been ever narrowing, Crosby has perhaps set the pace for this campaign with his very astute news management. Blair and 'New' Labour has been forced to state and restate their policy on immigration, asylum etc...

So in general the election campaign has been a big turn off, it has failed to engage with the man-in-street, tho' to be fair tactical voting seems to have made a comeback with David Davis' seat being under threat among others. So a tedious campaign with perhaps an interesting few results is the best we can hope for.

The big ideas and the big problems have been avoided, global warming, intellectual property rights, transport gridlock, industrial democracy. This is the downside of modern advertising driven and poll tested techniques in that they relentlessly narrow and focus the politics of this campaign on what politicians perceive as 'important' to potential voters. Add in the the lopsided nature of our first past the post electoral system and you the alienated and alienating unegaging election campaign.

Monday, April 11, 2005

I Know How Charles Kennedy Feels...

Being a prospective first time dad myself I have real empathy for Charles Kennedy and his wife as soon I will be going through the same thing! I do hope however that Kennedy takes more than two days paternity leave, some things take precedence over politics and the birth of your first child should be one of those things. Kennedy being more of human being than most politicians has at least realised this.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Quiet Death of MG Rover

And so they went with a whimper not a bang, MG Rover are now in the hands of the receivers(and 'New' Labour lackeys) PriceWaterhouseCoopers with the Chinese playing off the management and the government quite brilliantly getting what they want with juicy deals for key elements of MG Rover's intellectual property falling in their lap. The failure of MG Rover while being a tragedy for the Rover workforce brilliantly illustrates some of the current trends in British state Capitalism and how they've played out in manufacturing.

MG Rover has had a variety of incarnations over the last thirty years, bailed out by the government in the seventies acquired on life support by BMW in the nineties. A mixture of private and public money has kept the show going...until now. So why has MG Rover failed? the popular consensus is that they were too small and produced unattractive cars that failed to sell. As usual the received wisdom is merely a heavily edited subsection of the wider story. MG Rover competed in a heavily rigged market, car production like the commercial aircraft business did not spontaneously arrive out of nowhere.

Across the western world car manufacturers are cosseted, subsidised and kept alive by governments, banking institutions and the wider technocratic infrastructure. MG Rover's treatment therefore is not unusual but the inability of the UK government to keep 'the English patient' alive is unusual amongst industrialised nations. Even in supposed bastions of the 'free market' like the USA car giants like GM and Chrysler have been kept alive and bailed out throughout various times in their history. The car industry like the aircraft industry is deemed 'too big to fail' and is seen as a strategic asset by other countries round the world. The result of a heavily subsidised car market worldwide is of course a glut of vehicles, demand is heavily out of whack with supply forcing the car companies to come up with ever more creative means of selling their product to deflationary minded consumers. China will of course make this problem worse rather than better in the long-term...

So when it comes to the failure of MG Rover I belong to the cock-up rather than conspiracy school of thought. Any government pre-election is not going to actively encourage job losses, but as Meaders pointed out 'New' Labour is trapped by it's own superficial 'free market' ideology when it comes to intervening to save MG Rover. The French on the other hand are more pragmatic when it comes to their own industrial policy and in a similar situation would have(and have done) told the EU to put their competition policy where the sun don't shine. Conservative pundits on the web have of course made this point as well, illustrating some interesting contradictions between nationalist and vulgar libertarian ideologies.

So what then is the solution to MG Rover going bankrupt? As has been pointed out in this post the failure of MG Rover is a result of the UK government's inability to play manufacturing game by the rules of Realpolitik rather than meekly believing that the death of MG Rover was a 'natural' result of the 'free market' winnowing the wheat from the chaff. So if we were going to be traditionally statist and nationalistic about it a government bail-out would be the natural conclusion.

Vulgar libertarians would of course be horrified at this, but like the Trots any potential implementation of their pseudo-libertarian ideas would require a worldwide revolution(which ain't gonna happen..). So we can safely discount the Vulgar Libertarian minarchist solution as both unworkable and ignoring the lessons of history. The social democratic solution would be pretty much identical with Realpolitik and conservative nationalist position, although for different reasons. They would dress it up with language about 'preserving skills', 'human capital' all the usual technocratic human resources style cant deployed to depressing effect, the status quo tweaked in effect. All these conventional solutions profess to be thinking of the welfare of the worker but in the end cleave to the standard capitalistic method of organising things, what then would a Mutualist do to save MG Rover?

Well like the social democrat we would have to be pragmatic, after all as the Wobblies say we have to construct the new society within the shell of the new. So we would have to find a way of saving MG Rover while protecting the workers. This would rule out any rejection of government subsidy/grants, despite our ideological objection to such things generally. First of all we would look at the management structure of the company. Like most large corporations MG Rover is locked into Weber's iron cage of bureaucratic rationality. The typical hierarchical structure of the capitalist corporation has been retained, workers sell their labour to the capitalists as they've done for the past four hundred years. The MG Rovers own neither plant nor equipment or tools though they do have the use of a union(the TGWU).

This then implies that the workers need to own the company that their labour has built. The obvious means of doing this are by transforming MG Rover into some form of Co-Operative ran by the workers democratically. The government, traditional statist unions and private would dismiss this outright but looking at the situation pragmatically it would seem that the traditional solutions are not working. A successful worker run MG Rover would prove an example to be copied and rallying point for the labour movement in general. It's time to try something new, let's start with Rover!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

And Lo The Vicar Did Call an Election...

So the circus begins, with the apathetic general public subject to the blandishments of focus group thinkers masquerading as the height of political debate, idiot pollsters and zombie like party activists will stalk the landscape turning every stone and stomach for that elusive marginal tilting vote. However we are only to be subject to thirty days of shameless political whoring so there are some small mercies. But the general election does have a bad side as well, to paraphrase the good doctor shamelessly.

The poor benighted Lib Dems are of course ignored to a large extent with the BBC plugging its infamous 'swingometer' predicated on the stale assumptions of two party politics, and business as usual. There is an odd mood in the country at the moment people tire of Blair and 'New' Labour yet seem resigned to voting for four more years. Given the quirks of the UK electoral system and the inequities of First Past the Post there is no real hope(thank God) of the Tories winning. The voters know this, as do the politicians and this in combination with the odd mood of the country will be the cause of odd results and unexpected swings.

My prediction? well for what it's worth I think the Labour majority will be slashed to around fifty, the Lib Dems will hit eighty to ninety seats and the Tories will probably hit the high two hundreds. A hung parliament is also a distinct possibilty...

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Pope Dies, Meditations From a Religious Atheist

So the Pope has finally shuffled off his mortal coil, the Cardinals are gathering with a conclave to be set. Already the crowds are thronging Rome to see his mortal remains to keep him from finally dying. People die twice, once physically and twice in memory. The Pope unlike you or I will have a long half life, will be recorded in history books and the folk memory of the Catholic church.

The Pope's death has perhaps disturbed me in other ways, the treatment given to him, transforming him from man to religious cipher, an Ikon for the faithful to focus on the divine. This type of religious behaviour would seem to be a constant for the faithful of any creed as those witnessing the reaction of Shi'ites to the death of Ayatollah Khomeni would attest. The Pope as an actual living human being has been obscured and ignored his titular role as head of the mother church bleaching his humanity. Like the Shi'ite Ayatollah the Pope becomes an 'object of emulation' for the ordinary believer

For me the structures of the Catholic church tend to mitigate against treating other human beings as equals. The Catholic church in this way reflects its origins in the Roman Empire of late antiquity, authority is top down rather than bottom up, god transmits to the Pope and the Pope then illuminates his Bishops and so on. The hierarchy of the church is to some Catholics a symbolic reflection of the 'natural' hierarchies already extant, the ladder of being from man to God. The late Pope felt at home with these arrangements and exploited the monarchical hierarchy of Roman Catholicism to enforce his conservative theology.

Women, Gay rights and the HIV positive were to suffer most from this medieval intransigence. His latent mediaevalism has however a positive side with the rejection of empty Capitalistic individualism and recognition of the exploitative nature of current corporate arrangements and rights of workers to organise against them. The affinities with socialism are an historical accident of birth rather than an active engagement, Liberation theology was alas too little too late and ignored by the Church and despised by the last Pope.

The Pope then was a contradictory yet consistent religious leader, a fallible human being clothed in the robes of an ancient church, a symbol to the faithful of an order passed and of what might be.