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Thread: Is there space for a British "Workers Party"?

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    Question Is there space for a British "Workers Party"?

    Following a debate on another forum about what the appropriate number of working hours per week for a person are, it actually got me realising that no political party in Britain ever seems to find itself putting the workforce at the front and centre of its political messaging. I know it sounds extraordinary, but the very concept of the Labour party seems to have effectively been shelved despite a jump to the left in its leadership. I don't necessarily hold anyone responsible for this, and could be persuaded that the changing face of the modern workforce enforced a rethink, but I equally find it remarkable that nobody really seems terribly interested in legitimate, meaningful reform in terms of working conditions.

    And it's not just a crusade about a better minimum wage, which was of course one policy that Labour did announce in the last General Election.

    It's about the whole concept of work, what it's for, what it should reward, how we should do it, and what the modern workplace should effectively work on.

    There is so much research nowadays about how to modernize the workplace, yet it appears that so few places are willing to actually take on any of the findings. In Britain people generally work too much, are paid too little, and work in conditions that aren't actually terribly conducive to productivity or efficiency. Yet nobody seems to be highlighting this politically, nor really seems to have any intent to actually change the fact that people are expected to work themselves into the ground, lose most of their money to speculative buy-to-let landlords, and eventually come into a pension that will see them keep working because they can't live on it.

    ... Why not?

    Am I just missing it?

    Is it the fear of a fatal vote split that would guarantee Conservative governance?

    Is it wholly unfeasible for economic or social reasons?

    Is it a message the Labour party are putting out, but we're missing due to biased journalism?

    I'm genuinely curious what people think, because the political reality that I find myself in in Scotland is that I have no choice but to vote for the SNP or spoil the ballot paper (I'm not really one for abstention). I can't vote for the Conservatives, Labour or Liberal Democrats because they take that vote as explicit support for the union, and I can't vote for the student politics body called the Greens or independents that see the ballot wasted (see RISE and its ilk). But even were the political landscape of Scotland not poisoned by the to and fro of nationalism/unionism, none of these parties really discuss how to make workplaces better for the average employee.

    And I find that absolutely staggering.

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    We already have The Socialist Workers Party. Isn't that one in the niche you refer to.

    I'm not really interested in a british anything to be honest so perhaps not the best person to reply to this. When we are independent I would like to see a prominent one in Scotland though.
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    What's required is new thinking, which for some may be borderline utopian. I'm currently very interested in the debates and formations surrounding UBI, because the philosophy that underpins it is both radical and emancipatory in the truest sense; i.e. it seeks to break the 200-odd yr old protestant formulation that work = virtue; and indeed that work is only worthwhile/worth rewarding if it generates profit.

    In the final analysis, the technology and capacity exists that humans need not be working 40 hrs a week, let alone 80 hrs or indentured modern serfdom. "Aye, but we all need to work and be productive, it's our nature". Maybe so. This is where accompanying ideas like Job Guarantee are also interesting: simply put, there is plenty of productive work that could be done within communities as a condition of your income as a citizen that does not necessarily produce profit (in the economic sense of the term).

    Whataboutery will abound, but nevertheless for me we need to start thinking in utopian terms - if you trace the history of the labour movement that came to its apotheosis in the post-war settlement, it didn't start with Chartism or whatever, but with utopian movements like the St. Simonians or Icarians. These movements inevitably failed, but they created the terrain for the cultural and philosophical conversation to be fundamentally altered.

    One thing's for sure: parties espousing either old-school socialism or capitalist reform are both doomed to failure and philosophically redundant - neither model can cope with a globalised, rapidly automating world. New models and forms of thought altogether are required.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dub View Post
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    We already have The Socialist Workers Party. Isn't that one in the niche you refer to.
    I get that, but it seems more interested in producing commentary relating to old-school (and failed) versions of socialism that aren't relevant any more, and less on simply saying that it wants to improve the lot of workers.

    Quote Originally Posted by aggie View Post
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    One thing's for sure: parties espousing either old-school socialism or capitalist reform are both doomed to failure and philosophically redundant - neither model can cope with a globalised, rapidly automating world. New models and forms of thought altogether are required.
    I wholly agree with this and, in general, the whole post.

    I think it perhaps captures my point more eloquently than I did in the opening gambit.

    Concluding that capitalism doesn't work now isn't the same as saying that it's never worked and is a wholly failed economic ideology. Equally, trumping back to 70's socialism just isn't a solution people are terribly interested in because a lot of the commentary surrounding it is a bit abstract and arcane. Personally, I think the problem lies in that the political class is both educated in a certain way to believe certain things, while simultaneously seeing self-selection for entities that view the world the same way they do (effectively, the "echo chamber").

    Maybe the snag is that the fourth estate in Britain is now so irrevocably poisoned by international corporate ownership, it'd be hard for this type of new thinking to really be given a fair shake. When you mention UBI, something I support, we often get bogged down in arguments that relate to current thinking and not a different type of economy make up altogether. So, if you support UBI, do you also accept that the entire gamut of how tax and welfare works needs wholly reformed?

    Because if not, you'll keep running into the same walls.

    Amusingly I think you and I probably view these topics with a lot of similarity, bud.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zellviren View Post
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    Concluding that capitalism doesn't work now isn't the same as saying that it's never worked and is a wholly failed economic ideology.
    Indeed. Marx, for instance, actually unashamedly admired capitalism. It's just a busted flush now - its efficacy is exhausted, and now it's eating the very fabric of society.

    So, if you support UBI, do you also accept that the entire gamut of how tax and welfare works needs wholly reformed?
    Yes. The whole shooting match.

    Amusingly I think you and I probably view these topics with a lot of similarity, bud.
    Why amusingly?! I feel like we agree quite often
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    Quote Originally Posted by aggie View Post
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    Why amusingly?! I feel like we agree quite often
    Because I'm a $#@! and you're not, lolz.

    But I've been thinking a bit about this over lunch.

    I mean… Let’s play out a small scenario.

    Let’s say a person is working 40 hours a week, is paid £7.50 an hour, is paying tax at a 20% rate, and has £100 to cough up each week in rent. That would mean that at the end of the week, we have the following conclusions; he’s earned £300, but lost £60 to the exchequer and £100 on rent. He’s, therefore, sat on £140. Let’s say that 50% of that is spent on “luxuries”, with VAT sat at 20%, and the rest he needs for commuting to work, eating and clothing himself.

    As things stand, the exchequer has taken a total of £74 (£60 tax and £14 VAT) this week, or £3,848 per annum.

    Let’s take the same guy, but bump up his wages to £15 an hour.

    He’s now on £600 per week, is spending his ton on rent, but is giving the exchequer £120 in tax. We’ve already said that £70 is enough for his necessities, so he has a full £310 to spend on his luxuries. At 20%, he’s giving the exchequer another £62 in VAT for a total of £182 overall. This is more than doubling his contribution to the exchequer, while only doubling his wages. Of course we accept that perhaps some of that money will be saved, but we should also accept that we could alter both income and Value Added taxes in order to increase the take at the bottom level and that even savings will be spent at some stage.

    This is the basic outline of a high-wage, high-tax economy (the Netherlands), compared to the low-wage, low-tax economy of the UK.

    But what of businesses who are paying these wages?

    It’s typically argued that companies will desert Britain if we dared to hit them with more corporation tax or increased the minimum wage, but we know from global experience that it’s complete and utter bollocks. Companies will stay where there is a profit to be made, almost regardless of the margin and, using the Netherlands again as an example, corporation tax is essentially 25% while the minimum wage (calculated from the monthly minimum) is £8.74 at the current exchange rate. It’s also worth noting that, in the Netherlands, 22 is the age you need to be in order to get the full minimum wage, rather than 25 in the UK.

    Ultimately, this all means that people are paid more in the Netherlands, the tax take is higher as a result, and private companies are perfectly comfortable paying both those wages, and a higher rate of corporation tax. There’s more McDonald’s over here than there is in America, I’d wager. /blush

    But let’s argue that businesses would depart, because that’s the neoliberal argument. Assuming we can more than double the tax take per person in work by merely doubling their wages, we could lower corporation tax for businesses at the same time. But, of course, this is current thinking; tax and spend, raise and drop. Why not apply corporation tax in the way we apply income tax, with bands set to differentiate between small businesses and large businesses? That way, we can protect smaller businesses that help communities to thrive and increase competition, while discouraging the creation of corporate entities that monopolise the market and do the exact opposite.

    Now, clearly, this is a GROSS oversimplification of the system. It’s ignoring all manner of things in order to make the point simple. All I’m trying to highlight is that the steps toward a high-wage economy are not as frightening as you might think, because those who earn more money will put more money into the exchequer’s pot. What they will also do, is be less likely to drain public services due to overwork/poor health and are less likely to rely on other forms of income support that prop up so many in the UK. It’s also worth remembering that people with more free time will logically have an increased propensity to consume, so will spend more of their money on the luxuries that we can grab 20% of the cost from.

    For me, I think there's a spot for a "Worker's Party" because I don't hear anyone talking about these kind of ideas, or a UBI, outside of an easy-to-shoot vacuum.

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    While I think there is something interesting about a UBI on its own it is far from a radical idea. Indeed many right wingers and neoliberals are in favour for the same reason that they back flat tax rates, it guarantees basic subsistence levels without even looking at inequality and how to get higher tax yields from the wealthy. That said, I'm supposed to be hearing a talk on UBI from Hartley Dean in a few weeks and he's quite interesting on this topic. Very basic premise of his view is here
    http://www.lse.ac.uk/LSEE-Research-o...esentation.pdf

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gareth View Post
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    While I think there is something interesting about a UBI on its own it is far from a radical idea. Indeed many right wingers and neoliberals are in favour for the same reason that they back flat tax rates, it guarantees basic subsistence levels without even looking at inequality and how to get higher tax yields from the wealthy. That said, I'm supposed to be hearing a talk on UBI from Hartley Dean in a few weeks and he's quite interesting on this topic. Very basic premise of his view is here
    http://www.lse.ac.uk/LSEE-Research-o...esentation.pdf
    The UBI is interesting, but it’s only radical within a whole series of reforms.

    There was another debate, for example, and I think it was HenryLB who was saying that the tax system doesn’t necessarily share its credo with the UBI. So, for example, if a UBI gave a person six grand a year, what was the point in the way things like tax credits or the personal allowance worked to take away money that had already been given out? I disagree with HenryLB on a great many things, but he was bringing up a good point – but, as it often is with neoliberals, the point was presented in a vacuum in order to criticise it. What I’m suggesting (and @aggie agrees with, hoho) is a wholescale re-imagining of how the system works, and how it could be made to work for the benefit of employees whilst being economically viable.

    It’s possible, obviously, but there’s currently nobody looking at it.

    There should be.

    Rising percentages of food bank use, mental illness and suicide surely can’t be the sign of an economically healthy, modern country.

    Conservatives seem to think that it is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zellviren View Post
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    The UBI is interesting, but it’s only radical within a whole series of reforms.
    There was another debate, for example, and I think it was HenryLB who was saying that the tax system doesn’t necessarily share its credo with the UBI. So, for example, if a UBI gave a person six grand a year, what was the point in the way things like tax credits or the personal allowance worked to take away money that had already been given out? I disagree with HenryLB on a great many things, but he was bringing up a good point – but, as it often is with neoliberals, the point was presented in a vacuum in order to criticise it. What I’m suggesting (and @aggie agrees with, hoho) is a wholescale re-imagining of how the system works, and how it could be made to work for the benefit of employees whilst being economically viable.
    It’s possible, obviously, but there’s currently nobody looking at it.
    There should be.
    Rising percentages of food bank use, mental illness and suicide surely can’t be the sign of an economically healthy, modern country.
    Conservatives seem to think that it is.
    I don't disagree with much of that. Indeed I think the real political utopians of today are those who believe we can pretty much carry on as we are, splurging in a world of finite resources, with the gap between the haves and the have nots getting greater and then not expecting a social or environmental explosion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dub View Post
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    We already have The Socialist Workers Party. Isn't that one in the niche you refer to.

    I'm not really interested in a british anything to be honest so perhaps not the best person to reply to this. When we are independent I would like to see a prominent one in Scotland though.
    The Socialist Workers Party are well finished Dub, huge split within it.
    Scottish Socialist party are the most prominent around at the moment

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    Quote Originally Posted by newhoosehibby View Post
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    Scottish Socialist party are the most prominent around at the moment
    This is my understanding, except to say that "prominent" also currently means "completely un-electable".

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    I'd add that i am not sure a new or re-imagined political party operating within the holyrood or westminster model is going to deliver the shift that i'd agree needs to come. People who achieve power through that system are not going to tear it down - its a fundamental problem. Its also one of the reasons that i supported Scottish indy - that massive change just might create a space for new ideas around doing things, not within the SNP necessarily.

    So how do we achieve change without relying on a political party to come in and save the day? I think we need examples of alternatives, people need to be the change that they want. It'll be hard but not impossible.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gun ainm View Post
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    I'd add that i am not sure a new or re-imagined political party operating within the holyrood or westminster model is going to deliver the shift that i'd agree needs to come. People who achieve power through that system are not going to tear it down - its a fundamental problem. Its also one of the reasons that i supported Scottish indy - that massive change just might create a space for new ideas around doing things, not within the SNP necessarily.

    So how do we achieve change without relying on a political party to come in and save the day? I think we need examples of alternatives, people need to be the change that they want. It'll be hard but not impossible.
    Indeed. It's weird, but my year campaigning for Indy really took it out of me more than I realised. It was a pretty devastating blow to fail.

    However, I feel like I'm just starting to recover my optimism now, and I'm ready to go again - whether that means another Indy campaign, or another movement.
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    There's been an interesting series in the Guardian by Aditya Chakrabortty about where people on a small scale have attempted to wrestle power away from the powerful. I'm not sure there are necessarily lessons that can be reproduces on a larger scale, though in some cases there are, but there are signs of hope there.
    I think the political party this is a bit of a dilemma. I've little optimism that an existing political party want to radically change things, though Corbyn in England comes closest to that in my lifetime, and its difficult to see a new party, especially a radical one, making headway. But i guess for me the issue comes partly down to direction of change. Parties are more likely to change things if the pressure for change comes from below, not tied to some benevolent leadership, so while sharing your pessimism about political parties, i also think we need to put pressure from below on those parties. The problem in Scotland is that I can't envision the SNP shifting much, they essentially want to be good managers, and Labour in Scotland remain centrist at best while their ongoing antipathy and misunderstanding of left supporters of independence also stunts them.
    Its the classic horns of a dilemma

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    Quote Originally Posted by aggie View Post
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    Indeed. It's weird, but my year campaigning for Indy really took it out of me more than I realised. It was a pretty devastating blow to fail.

    However, I feel like I'm just starting to recover my optimism now, and I'm ready to go again - whether that means another Indy campaign, or another movement.
    same as me ^

    although now I am beginning to wonder (more) if indy is the right vehicle, the managerialism of the SNP although conceived no doubt as a pre indy 'credibility' tactic looks to have become central to that party and is now both a strength and a weakness. Could an iscotland just be much the same as the status quo? don't get me wrong I haven't given up on that but I think it'd be wise to look at other paths to change as well.
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    newhouse is correct to say that the swp are more or less finished here in edinburgh-we should know,however i think newhoose overplays the role being played by the ssp also.Apart from constantly campaigning on the issue of a minimum wage of 10 quid an hour something they have been doing for well over 6 months on Princes St;when it comes to other campaigns they have been posted missing,they hardly had any comrades on the demos over catalonia,they were missing in the campaign over supporting the BIFU workforce,they were hardly prominent on the anti trump marches,they didn't lift a fingure over the recent Gaza camaign and they were posted missing on the don't bomb Syria demo.
    But on the other hand they were part and parcel of setting up Rise,but to be honest Rise have hardly sent the heather on fire in recent weeks.There has been the RIC campaign since the days of the indy ref and it is capable of attracting around a thousand people to it's debates, but i guess you will think that is small beer.Apart from that there is the STUC but they tend to only campaign when there is an election coming up,then there is Solidarity but it is pretty well tainted by being associated with Tommy Sheridan.
    For my part I'm currently in Rise and part of a socialist group which is known as RS21(Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century)it's basically a break away from the SWP from when the SWP collapsed five years ago due to covering up a rape crisis.We have a small group set up in Scotland(made up of about 10 comrades but there is a problem with the name we're either the International Socialist Scotland acronym the ISS or we're the International Socialists in Scotland acronym ISIS!(I wonder why we can't attract members).

    Nationally there are one or two other groups,Counterfire (another breakaway from the SWP and Respect)led by Lyndsay German and John Rees ex SWP central commitee and Respect, most famous for leading the Stop the War coalition,then there is the Socialist Party-ex Militant Tendency,Left Unity led by Ken Loach and the author China Mieville,although I've a funny feeling they through in their lot with the Labour Party,then you've got Respect lead by George Galloway and Salma Yaqoob-but again they might have thrown in their lot with Labour,and you've got the SWP and the CPGB (ie the ex Communist Party-most famous for the Morning Star) then you've got the rest of the 57 varieties of Trotskyists.Now I hope you are all au fait with the left as it stands.

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    An independent Scotland would certainly provide a space for new ideas, and I totally accept your point about trying to change something within a system that’s thoroughly resistant to being changed. Wrapping up the quoted text, I do feel that the biggest issue facing British democracy is the stranglehold that its electoral system still retains. Democracy is, effectively, in a death grip that it simply can’t escape from under the current system.

    Let’s say we set up an overtly left-wing worker’s party. Let’s say we had a strong policy platform, one that workers would in general get behind and support, and one that was relatively well-funded either by members or by donors. The first General Election would likely result in political oblivion for the left, as the split between our party and Labour would allow the Conservative party to pretty much sleep walk into more seats than it would ever have gotten otherwise. People would be upset, blaming the vagaries of the First Past the Post system, but they’d be wrong.

    It’s not a vagary of the system.

    It’s how the system is supposed to work.

    FPTP is retained, specifically, to ensure that Britain gets nothing other than right-wing governance. Since Labour’s jump to the right under Blair, there’s been precious little meaningful difference between the two major parties and this has ensured that the national trajectory, at least economically and politically, has been on exactly the same tracks since Clause IV was replaced with meaningless gibberish. For me, that makes the electoral system the most fundamentally essential target if we want anything to change because we’re changing nothing until it’s fixed. And it’s not something that a manifesto should promise a referendum on; there’d be no point in that, because the population would simply be barraged by FPTP propaganda supported by the two major parties that overwhelmingly benefit from it.

    I like AMP systems, despite the one in Scotland being fatally poisoned by the nationalist/unionist divide, but there are multiple others. If the country must have a choice, then the choice should be what new system they prefer and not whether or not to retain an anti-democratic block on any and all meaningful change.

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