Nulabour was Tony Blair’s way of distancing Labour from some of the Marxist thinking that enthused many of its older members and some of its past. The theatrical moment he invented was the one when he struck out Clause 4 from the party’s constitution, removing the promise or threat to nationalise the means of production. We now know his successor did not mean that move, being happy to renationalise the railways and to buy up a couple of banks.
Many people saw old Labour as a mixed economy version of communism. The Communist Party Manifesto of Karl Marx was a very influential document, which set a programme for more than a century which many countries followed wholly, and some in the west followed in part. The second half of the twentieth century in the UK when I was growing up was heavily influenced by Marxist thinking. When I first read Marx I knew I wanted to oppose its surveillance society, its attack on private property, its dislike of freedom and choice. What surprised me was how many members of the British establishment I came across as teachers, lecturers, civil serrvants and Labour politicians bought into much of the Marxist analysis and some of the Marxist policies. They were armchair class warriors. I didn’t want to fight the class war. I wanted to abolish it by helping create conditions in which all could have a good lifestyle and come to own property.
There were ten main proposals in The Communist Manifesto:
1.The abolition of private property and land ownership
2.A heavy progressive income tax
3 The abolition of all right of inheritance
4.Confiscation of all property of emigrants and rebels
5.Centralisation of credit through the state, through nationalised banking
6.Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state
7.More nationalised factories and means of production
8. Equal treatment of all labour and establishment of industrial armies(direction of labour)
9.Erosion of the distinction between town and country
10.Free education for all in public schools and abolition of child factory labour.
Number 10 is a good thing, and is accepted wisdom on all parts of the political spectrum in the UK. The rest are bad for prosperity, freedom and the quality of life.
Labour in office in the past got a long way with implementing chunks of this programme. They introduced land legislation to direct development and take the gains for the state. They put Income Tax up to a top rate of 98%, and put in place penal Death duties.
They nationalised or kept in the state sector telephones, post, the main airline, roads, waterways, airports, docks, National Freight, railways and buses. They acquired state ownership of a big part of the car industry,aerospace, oil, gas, electricity,coal, steel, and shipbuilding.
New Labour lived with Conservative tax rates for a time, and did even cut CGT and the standard rate of Income Tax in their more popular days. Now Gordon Brown is going back to the old agenda, with the hike in Income Tax to a 50% top rate. He has nationalised part of the banking industry and promised to control the rest more tightly by regulation. He has pursued an agenda which favours the town more than the countryside.
So what is the antidote? It is the agenda of popular capitalism , with its ten point programme to free people more and to pass the means of production and the land to the people to own, enjoy and improve through private ownership.
1. The broadening of ownership of land and commercial enterprises – everyman (and woman) an owner
2. Taxation reform to lower rates
3.Land reform, breaking up large state owned estates and encouraging family ownership instead (Council house sales etc)
4. Encouraging private pension saving on top of basic state pension and National Insurance
5.Abolition of exchange controls and reduction of state debt and borrowing
6.Denationalisation – rolling back the frontiers of state enterprise
7. Brreaking monopolies and introducing competition and choice
8. Debt swap programmes and debt reduction for heavily indebted coutnries
9. Encouraging the private and voluntary sectors in areas formerly dominated by the state
10. Definign the state’s role in maintaining law and order, defending the country and in welfare.
This programme which I published in the 1980s and took into Eastern Europe is still relevant today. The language and attitudes have moved on, but the main point remains the same. The Conservative manifesto takes on the task of involving people more in the ownership and direction of public services, one of the next stages of the wider ownership movement.
Promoted by Christine Hill on behalf of John Redwood, both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU