Labour, Communism and the antidote

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

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22 Comments

  1. David B
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Simply put the role of government is to do a small number of things as well as it can and to raise the funding to do those things in a way that causes least disruption to the growth potential of the economy

  2. Max Van Horn
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    It's a great pity that the laws of physics seem to preclude a time machine.The world could be saved so much poverty and suffering if Marx,Engles and Trotsky were simply removed from history.Note to anyone with a machine..I'm the man for the job.

  3. D K McGregor
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Do you have any views on Land Valuation Tax ? I would be interested in your thoughts on this subject.

  4. Derek Buxton
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the ten points you have come up with. I am rather puzzled by the last paragraph "involving people more in the ownership of public services". The public services should be taking notice of the people but only rarely do they notice we are even there.

    By the way, I am concerned by this talk of "community organisers", POTUS was one of those, he pushed for the "communities act" which forced lenders to give loans to those who could not pay the money back. It also has echos of past foreign regimes, the like of which we should not be emulating. A very bad move.

  5. A.Sedgwick
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Without wishing to be to melodramatic I fear Blair also has had a lasting and detrimental influence on this country. Had he chosen to stay a barrister things may have been different. It is no surprise that the arch strategist, Mandelson, changed sides in 1994. Brown has no charisma and Nulabour's influence may have been minimised by smaller majorities and less election victories.

    The economy is wrecked, the culture of the country has changed with mass immigration, both legal and illegal. Clegg was arguing to allow all illegals permanent residence and Boris was promoting this not too long ago. The EU is a political monster that needs taming.

    There you have three areas to be brave and bold but sadly Cameron is another result of Blair. The manifesto was the expected disappointment.

    Radical changes to our taxation system and bureaucracy to promote business not state growth, moratorium on permanent immigration and in/out EU referendum, those are winning policies.

    • APL
      Posted April 14, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      A. Sedgwick: "Cameron is another result of Blair. .."

      I think you give too much credit to Blair, he took the Labour party and made it electable, that is all I am prepared to credit the man with.

      His success is an index of the Tories failure.

      The real problem and the reason Cameron does not offer much different to Brown, is the European Union.

      Cameron refuses to confront the EU – cannot confront the EU even if he wanted to when his shadow cabinet is stuffed to the gunnels with Europhiles. Since he can choose his own shadow cabinet, I am forced to conclude he has chosen Europhiles because he is in accord with their general policy stance.

  6. John Bowman
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood: good antidote as far as it goes but you miss out the most important No 11 – restore the right of self-determination by bringing Government home… from Brussels; No 12 stop Government trying to control every aspects of our lives – what we eat, drink, drive, enjoy, how we cohabit, use electricity – by its constant, baseless, dire warnings and predictions of death, disease and doom; its tangle of laws and taxes to bully and browbeat.

    Just leave us alone.

    • Kevin Peat
      Posted April 14, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Hear hear !

      Don't forget the hypocrisy that goes with No 12.

  7. adam
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    One of the features of totalitarian control that Orwell emphasised was the ability to redefine language and use it to confuse.
    When communists do it, it is deliberate.
    So i wonder whether (Labour-ed) party minister Stephen Timms attempt to redefine the meaning of IP address is just pathological lying from a government thats never scrutinseds on its (errors-ed) by the media, or just the unbridled ignorance that we know exists in Parliament

    • A T
      Posted April 14, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      Adam – Not familiar with what Timms did ref. IP address. Could you elaborate ? Thanks.

      • Nick
        Posted April 16, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        IP address stands for Internet Protocol when used in computing circles (usually). Timms referred to an IP address as an "Intellectual Property" address.

        Given the nature of the bill an understandable mistake.

  8. APL
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    John Bowman: "Just leave us alone."

    Couldn't agree more.

    BUT,

    The root of the problem is we now have a professional political class, that feels the need to be seen to be 'doing something' – it is an imperitive – since how else can you justify £64,000 + very generous expenses and the subsidies the parties have paid to themselves 'in the name of democratic accountability'?

    That is a recipe for endless meddling.

    In short; We get what we have been forced to pay for.

    • Jmaes Clover
      Posted April 14, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

      Bit like the constant edicts in Education- what has now been added to the curriculum, how to teach it etc.
      The problem is the huge army of bureaucrats not actually teaching, who have got to justify their existence by producing useless guff. Some of them are actually in schools; how many "heads of year" or "deputy directors of studies" etc. etc. actually stand in front of a class and teach?
      Is not the most tiresome of sacred cows Ejukashn?

  9. Frugal Dougal
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    A brilliant scheme, and still totally valid to combat Marxism that has been walked into many areas of public sector management by unelected Labour placemen.

    I remember – as probably you do – when a proposal would be put in front of the Communist Party one year, and after adoption be in front of the TUC conference, and then be adopted by the Labour Party at its next conference – CP to PLP in three springs, ie two years.

  10. Mike G
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Popular capitalism is viable only if asset price inflation is controlled to the same degree as consumption inflation, otherwise the financial industry ends up owning (by lien) the assets, not the people.

    M

  11. Bob
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I'm afraid that the Fabians have gradually infiltrated most levels of the establishment including the Tory Party since the 1960’s.

    The economy has been sabotaged, the justice system has been turned on it's head, the gold has been given away, the armed forces have been abused and demoralized, education has been substituted with socialist indoctrination, the country has been flooded with alien cultures to the point that we have lost our identity, industry has been virtually closed down and control and sovereignty has been surrendered to an unelected committee of bureaucrats in Brussels.

    Their work is almost done; now they just need to ban the upstart political parties that do not toe the line.

  12. ManicBeancounter
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    Whilst the Communist Manifesto is Marx’s most widely read work, it does not contain his most pernicious idea. This is summed up in the Preface to his Critique of Political Economy

    “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”

    This idea is still current in political debate in a more moderate form.

    – That the Government knows the real interest of society, and anyone who disagrees is wrong.
    – That the Tories will always work for the interests of the rich and against the provision of public services.
    – That bankers are self-evidently the wreckers of the economy, and have nothing to contribute.
    – That wealth is not something that is consciously earned through skill, experience and foresight, but arrived at purely by luck. Therefore high tax rates will make no difference to the economy. Nor will a switch of ownership from the capitalists to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Nor will the level of regulation.
    – That the truth of Climate Change is evident, so anyone who disagrees is deluded or in the pay of the oil companies (a euphemism for the capitalist class).

    P.S. It is worth reading the short preface in full. It is the only place you will find Marx fully express his most original idea – that economic forces determine the course of history. An idea that Marx was never able to justify theoretically, nor a pattern that even remotely correlates with actual events http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/c

  13. Martin
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    ".Erosion of the distinction between town and country"

    When Marx and Engels et al wrote that the suburbs and the leafy suburban commuting towns hadn't really been invented. Towns were towns and the countryside was full of real farm workers. Were the Conservative voting suburbs and leafy country towns really the product of the Communist Manifesto?

  14. David Price
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Shouldn't a government also put the interests of its citizens first? So how does popular capitalism address negative aspects of globalization and foreign ownership?

    I realise a general answer might be that positives should balance the negatives, but what if they don't, for example with IP and skills being given away and even our ability to set laws and regulations?

    Given that the world as a whole doesn't follow the same sets of rules, what exactly is the boundary that such a government must defend in terms of property, commerce and government?

  15. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    It is all very well having an agenda of popular capitalism, but unless we wrest back sufficient powers from the EU we will not be in sole charge of the agenda. The Conservative Party manifesto is inadequate on Europe, although it is the best that is on offer from any party likely to be elected.

    'A liberal Conservative foreign policy' – CP manifesto pp109-110:
    There is no mention at all of the 'permanent' EU president and foreign minister, which is good. However, the sentence 'We will work closely with other European countries to establish a common approach to common problems, such as climate change.' is included. That sentence shouldn't be there because it creates an ambiguity over sovereignty. Better to say that we will implement our own good ideas and make our own proposals, while being prepared to copy EU practice and proposals that we consider to have merit.

    'An open and democratic Europe' – CP manifesto pp113-114:
    The commitments are:
    – Repatriation of key powers over legal rights, criminal justice and social & employment legislation
    – Disenablement of Lisbon Treaty ratchet clauses
    – The 'referendum lock' on further treaties
    These commitments are necessary but not sufficient. The Lisbon Constitution quite simply has to go – lock, stock and barrel.

  16. chefdave
    Posted April 17, 2010 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    In theory Conservatives scorn the socialisation of private property, but in practice they need this income to keep the state going.

    You cannot have it both ways, if the Tories were true small state free marketiers then they’d tax land at market rates instead of socialising poor people’s wages.

  17. Adrian Peirson
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    What gets me is, they never seem to ask themselves what if Marx was wrong, what if he was Mad, they just follow his works, yet they dare not say it, that's how confident they are they don't have the guts to say what they are working to in Parliament, which immediately suggests that they know that Communism is not abour fairness, it is about Power, the only redistribution that seems to be going on is upwards.
    I wonder who pushes Global Communism, it wouldn;t be Globalists would it.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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