In 1848 the slim volume entitled “Manifesto of the Communist party” was produced for a revolutionary Europe. It contained the by now familiar distorted view of history that it was a prolonged class struggle which would end with the triumph of the proletariat. More importantly, it proposed ten major policies or Big Ideas which have held considerable sway in Europe ever since.
1. Abolition of all private property and the application of rents for public purposes. This helped inspire Development Land Tax, Section 106 agreements, the accumulation of large areas of public property and a range of other Labour measures and taxes to try to capture wealth from property.
2.A heavy progressive or graduated Income Tax. Labour got its marginal rate up to 83% for earned income and 98% for unearned income in the 1970s, rates Marx would have approved. They resiled from these 1997-2009, but started to hike rates again at the end.
3. The abolition of all right of inheritance. This has fathered Inheritance taxes, the Republicanism of some Labour supporters, the end of hereditary principle for the Lords – though political succession is a feature of some of the great Labour families.
4.Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels. Never caught on in the UK, though popular in some autocratic regimes abroad.
5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, through a monopoly nationalised bank. This is now done through a monopoly Central Bank with extensive regulation of the commercial banks. Labour got furthest with this during the crisis of 2007-8 when they bought shares in banks instead of putting them into controlled administration or some other private sector solution. As a result more than half the UK’s banking system was in public hands or under strong public influence.
6.Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state. Labour reached the point where the UK had a nationalised airline, railway, road freight, postal and telecommunications service.
7.Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state (plus planned agriculture). Labour did assemble substantial nationalised manufacturing interests, (aerospace, car manufacturing, computers etc) and the EU has taken to substantial planning and direction of agriculture.
8.Equal requirement of all to labour and the establishment of industrial armies. Public sector employment has risen substantially, but there has not been enforced direction of labour.
9.A gradual erosion of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of the population – this has increasingly happened as a result of economic growth anyway.
10. Free education for all children in public schools . Abolition of child labour.(Good ideas) This I am pleased to say has happened.
One of the main reasons Mr Blair wanted to make such an issue of abolishing Clause IV in the Labour party constitution was to renounce the Marxist influence over Labour’s past. Is this to remain Labour’s position, or are they moving back to the Marxist influences? They seem now to favour more public sector control of energy industries, are against employee and citizen ownership of the Royal Mail, and moving towards more general price controls.
The fact that policies in this little book are still actively promoted today, including damaging ones, means we need to keep a look out in debate for those who are influenced by it.