And so to France…

Exploring France Image
Scanning the European landscape for opportunity…

In Europe recently looking at both projects and for places to live.

When looking for information on business services, buildings and local opportunities, the distinctiveness of the Mairie and its conditioning power in small local communities, was a powerful example of how local democracy, decision making and regard for both history and civic presence can be created in one building, regardless of the size of the community.

History is important in France. Travelling from the city of Arras towards the coast created an opportunity to stop for coffee and a short walk. Just off the main road was a plot of land, about the size of a generous community football field. In it stood over eleven thousand grave markers for French men and women. Individuals who had fallen during The Great War.

Driving on, in a few minutes passing similar places dedicated to nearly forty thousand German souls, others for Indian nationals who died, and for Polish combatants too in another. A jumble of conflicts and immaculately kept memory, dotted across the landscape.

In the village centres and small towns were memorials erected to British Generals, regiments and individual soldiers, all paid for by popular subscription. Concrete evidence that France, lying at the heart of the European idea, must be as mystified as I am about the English notion of ‘leaving Europe’, post-referendum.

Having travelled across France many times in a lifetime, this journey was haunted by the spectre of betrayal. A notion that the lives expended in the creation of the European idea are seen as nought, when the evidence in the rolling landscape offers up the weight of a sacrifice to freedom that we ignore at our peril.

It was in the small, the local and the particular that the best information was to be had about generating new ideas, and not in the grand sweep of international politics and bureaucratic management of economies.

It is in the same context that European communities and businesses will respond to the new ‘English isolationism’.

Philip Rooke, an English entrepreneur, based in Berlin recently wrote in the journal VentureBeat about how the damage to trade and commercial relationships has already begun post-referendum. Although writing from a ‘tech’ development and business operations viewpoint, Rooke’s article illustrates well how the consideration of the local and particular will affect market development and access, regardless of the current mainstream political view in England.

In a clear exposition as a practicing business person in Europe, Rooke argues that he can already ‘…see companies heading to Berlin, Dublin, Amsterdam, and other European hubs‘. That is instead of coming to London or the UK as a whole.

‘Our corporate headquarters in Leipzig in the former East Germany is a microcosm of the benefits of a dynamic inclusive workplace powered by open borders — we have more than 20 nationalities that work together. I am sad that many of the UK voters did not appreciate what this environment adds to the knowledge, skills, and enjoyment of working in a mixed culture’.

Source: http://venturebeat.com/2016/07/30/brexits-damage-to-startups-has-already-begun/         Accessed: 16.08.2016

Rooke makes a tellng point about America, an important market for him. The USA has long been a federation of states, and Brexit he argues, is comparable to California, whose economy is similar in size to the UK, choosing to leave the United States. He argues that this would collapse the California technical marketplace as businesses and people chose to move to other cities in the US. Individuals making a rational choice to foster their interests by disengaging from a spurious political belief in independence, in order to preserve and cultivate their own businesses and careers.

It is a telling argument, but one that relies on understanding the unwritten and undeclared acts of the individual business player. A sort of conflict about the role of enlightened self-interest. In one case philanthropic, in another selfish perhaps. Themes which are never part of the political discourse and populist clamour about, in our case, European unity.

In closing his article Rooke counters the argument, sometimes heard from UK politicians about modelling the future on Norway or Switzerland. In practice, Rooke opines, these two countries have to work much harder, fill in more forms, pay additional taxes and wait longer for responses than mainstream European businesses. Rooke argues that his own multi-national prioritises development strategies away from this sort of market, in order to maintain growth and revenue.

Leave the club, he says and disincentives to growth and development abound, when so many other opportunities, which are border free, are just over the neighbouring horizon. None of these limitations are categorised, prescribed or noted in the current debate on Europe without England.

Although we would never close our Partnership office in Cambridge UK, over the years our projects have become international, even as a micro-business. Whatever the emotional energies or political views of our partners, the Rookeian notion of having a multicultural, cross national presence on mainland Europe makes sense even to us.

It is interesting to think that, in memoriam for all of those individuals, buried in the landscape so recently traversed, it may be that a form of enlightened, social capitalism is, in effect, the last bastion of defence for the European idea in the Twenty First Century.

Another sentence, from my political viewpoint, I never imagined writing.

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This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA
Tim is a paid-up member of The Labour Party and Momentum, living in rural Suffolk.
He is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.
No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

BHS – the Parliamentary Report

If you are in business, this BHS Parliamentary Report makes for a very depressing read. It combines a narrative of weak governance and the exercise of singular personal influence that is breathtaking.

bhsParliamentaryreport1016coverImage
Read the full report here…pdf version

The Committee make some sweeping assertions, however, about the nature of ‘business’ in the UK, which to this reader, do not perhaps reflect the true state of a wider ‘moral’ commercial landscape extant in the presently configured UK.

It gives little regard, I would argue, for the good work and innovative governance practice delivered by the social business market, the ethical investment marketplace and the community endeavour or social enterprise sectors.

In the UK good practice abounds, but it was not prowling the corridors of BHS at the appropriate time nor, allegedly, had the fearless support of a company management team that were vigorous and rigorous in pursuit of  customer care, employee development and growth and tilted all energy towards a cohort of pensioners, upon whose expertise and life work in the company, these missed opportunities were nurtured through time.

‘We chose to investigate BHS because it encapsulated many of our ongoing concerns about the regulatory and cultural framework in which business operates, including the ethics of business behaviour, the governance of private companies, the balance between risk and reward, mergers and acquisitions practices, the governance and regulation of workplace pension schemes, and the sustainability of defined benefit pensions…’

Source: First Report of the Work and Pensions
Committee and Fourth Report of the Business,
Innovation and Skills Committee of Session
2016–17 – BHS p.3  Accessed: 25.07.2016

This Parliamentary mission statement delineates old concerns and sources of tension for those of us, who are in or have been in, the Trade Union movement. The stated concerns of the Committee represent an amalgam of old arguments and fierce defensive stands for organised labour in the past. It, as a mantra, is not new.

The message about the inadvisability of exploitation is well developed on the left, what is new, perhaps, is the range of voices now expressing such concerns.

Like all large business, developed and managed through the conduit of manipulated private cash, the focus of the business, the report alleges, seemed to have been the enrichment of individual family members, with scant regard for re-investment in company infrastructure, technology and the long term welfare of company workers after retirement.

‘The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners. This is the unacceptable face of capitalism’.

Source: Source: First Report of the Work and Pensions
Committee and Fourth Report of the Business,
Innovation and Skills Committee of Session
2016–17 – BHS p.55  Accessed: 25.07.2016

It is the owners of the means of production who were to blame. Marx would have been proud.

What can be done?

  • Those on the left, of whatever shade or fervour, can become interested and active in the development of alternative business forms and modes of governance. Making the alternative ethical case from a political position of encouragement, not criticism. The beginning of transforming the ‘capital landscape’.
  • If the notion of nationalisation for large services and industries is unpalateable, then activists should embrace ‘The Collaborative Commons’, delivering social output and growth in common ownership with others. An old idea given new energy by entrepreneurs and academics recently in The Zero Marginal Cost Society, Jeremy Rifkin, Palgrave MacMillan, New York, 2015. See my review in another publication here.
  • In constituencies, where in my difficult experience, old rigid, command and control practices often continue to exist unfortunately, the energised left should help engage and deliver social business and community business enterprises as a driver of their activities. As cost control is different from rampant profiteering, so good governance and an ethical business position is the alternative face to big business, greed and consumer exploitation. It is not the abandonment of profit that should drive change, it is the added exercise of ethics that matter.
  • Make ethical business and social outcome part of the local and regional campaign activity across the UK, but particularly in rural areas, or those constituencies where blue pennants fly in bold profusion. This will not make an overnight change to voting habits, but members of the left, acitvely involved in new, ethical governance issues will slowly, over time change the perception and the voting record of communities. People will vote against deference and perceptions of ‘the local lord and lady’ know best, when there is a credible, articulate, practice based alternative available. Make social enterprise party praxis, then the communities we serve will too!
  • Work with regional Party machinery to make placing ethical business specialisms and social business governance knowledge on every LEP, school governing body or enterprise development project in every local authority. Make the voice of difference and ethical enterprise heard.
  • Make ethical business activity, the creation of community change through the prism of social responsibility, environmental sustainability and equality of opportunity and outcome the central plank of every Young Labour delivery, for example. Win the hearts and minds of the next generation of social business entrepreneurs, by harnessing their energy progressively, beginning now.

If you do this, then the next generation of entrepreneurs, social innovators and those who set out their stall to govern political parties will also give their vote to the Left. The world of business, forlornly outlined in this Parliamentary report, will have begun to systemically change from the roots up.

There is gargantuan range of research and thought abroad about social business, ethical entrepreneurship and business for good. From 80,000 Hours nurturing graduates to think of others to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, showing the world what business should not be.

Why can the Left not successfully harness it as a core principle?

See the full BHS Select Committee report here.

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This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA
Tim is a paid-up member of The Labour Party and Momentum, living in rural Suffolk.
He is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.
No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

Borderless capital
and the consequences

This short Ted Talk, at TED Banff in Canada in June 2016, is by Gerard Ryle, exploring the way investigative journalists collaboratively exploited the leaked Panama Papers to cast light on the borderless nature of capital and how individuals and their secretive companies obscure both their holdings and their interests.

What is interesting is how well it illustrates the internationalist nature of private capital, often capital accrued by public figures who, you would think, should have the interests of their nations and people at heart.

The talk shows the persistence and pervasiveness of the work of Panama based laywers Mossack Fonseca and the success that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington USA had, in sharing and developing the stories, that led to the resignation of Prime Ministers and the exposure of connections to political elites of exploitative financial arrangements.

The international and borderless nature of capital makes, I would argue, the recent territorial and administrative debates about the European Union irrelevant.

If there is a problem with a bureaucracy in a country or group of states, the deeper malaise is the creation of laws of preference for one group of actors and not another. If my road building project in Europe has not been administered properly, then we should, in an open democracy, be able to exercise rigorous accountability and audit to remove the problem and to rectify the injustice.

If my  bank account in the British Virgin Islands has been used to divert funds to my private interests, or allegedly to deliver payments to officials that might possibly be illegal, the very secrecy and obscurity of process means we have no recourse to auditable action to recover the situation – fiscal, ethical or moral.

If I then allegedly avoid paying tax or other contributions in my community, then everyone and the resources and infrastructure they use, also suffer a loss. Everyone in my community carries the cost.

I have written before about how the international nature of unnacountable capital, coupled to a populist notion of simple, charismatic vilification of ‘the other’ may bring us to the brink of war in Europe again, after such a prolonged period of peace.

The writer Tobias Stone recently published an article, History tells us what will happen next with Brexit & Trump, that captures the essence of what may be the coming dilemna in Europe. He notes the resilience of humans to survive massive destruction. Stone, however, sees that there is in the current socio-political rift in England, a tight focus on the present, a lack of historical and global perspective to actions and re-actions and at heart, the fact that most individuals are un-prepared to ‘read, think and challenge‘.

Stone clearly lays out in detail a possible topography of political change and tension that brings us to war with our neighbours…

Brexit in the UK causes Italy or France to have a similar referendum. Le Pen wins an election in France. Europe now has a fractured EU…with a fractured EU, and weakened NATO, Putin, facing an ongoing economic and social crisis in Russia, needs another foreign distraction around which to rally his people…just one Arch Duke Ferdinand scenario. The number of possible scenarios are infinite due to the massive complexity of the many moving parts. And of course many of them lead to nothing happening. But based on history we are due another period of destruction.

Source: https://medium.com/@theonlytoby/history-tells-us-what-will-happen-next-with-brexit-trump-a3fefd154714#.dkbzwwvya   Accessed: 25.07.2016

In a Brexit/Trump world Stone has it that, for example, neither Putin nor Trump read The Guardian. When we write to it, it is, he argues, just friends writing to comfort friends.

Whilst this may be true and the consequent solution to the chasm that divides us is not obvious, I would argue that the work of the ICIJ shows us what the real issue is and an article from Tobias Stone gives us a potential theory of outcome that should cause us all to shudder and re-think.

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This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA
Tim is a paid-up member of The Labour Party and Momentum, living in rural Suffolk.
He is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.
No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

Après moi, le déluge

guillotineImage
The end of an era?

Louis XV of France, in predicting the French Revolution after his demise, cannot have had David Cameron in mind. However, the last week of June 2o16 saw a number of unedifying political manifestations of the turmoil and collapse driven by the ‘Brexiteers’.

The titular phrase of this article is derived, according to which source you read, from après nous, le déluge arguably by Madame de Pompadour. The use of the plural is even more apposite as the recent scene in the Commons unfolded, where Cameron berates Jeremy Corbyn for not ‘leaving’ his post as leader, whilst the Tory Party under the tottering leadership of Cameron careers into crisis, effectively leaderless and arguably adrift in an ocean of conflicting ideologies.

The Conservative Party is now a bastion of Free marketeers, decrying the ready movement of labour. It has a one nation rhetoric, betrayed by dishonesty and spin, arguably intent on driving ‘foreigners’ from our shores. This latter philosophy creates popular incantations summoning ‘the other’, which will have terrrible consequences for some communities. Its leadership promoting this dissent and schism in civil society, seemingly regardless of the consequences to an economy now in freefall. This week we hear that the principles of austerity, cuts and deprivation, designed to reach a fiscal target which deems our nation to be a sort of grocery shop where costs must be cut at any price – now this too is swept away.

The writer Kazuo Ishiguro, writing in the Financial Times this week is angry…

Angry that one of the few genuine success stories of modern history — the transforming of Europe from a slaughterhouse of total war and totalitarian regimes to a much-envied region of liberal democracies living in near-borderless friendship — should now be so profoundly undermined by such a myopic process as took place in Britain last week. I am angry that the UK is now very likely to cease to exist, only two years after the Scottish referendum seemed to secure its future.

Source: https://next.ft.com/content/7877a0a6-3e11-11e6-9f2c-36b487ebd80a?siteedition=uk  Accessed: 01.07.2016

The ill-mannered protestation in the House that Jeremy Corbyn should ‘leave’ is ironic, wounding and shallow – particularly as Jeremy has an enormous electoral mandate from the Labour electorate, with more arriving at the door of a Corbyn led Party every week, we are told.

Now the Parliamentary Labour Party has joined the fray, seeking to dislodge Jeremy and his steadfast adherence to principle and social values. With the referendum result we hear continually the cry from both major parties ‘this is democracy, the people have spoken‘, yet when issues of Parliamentary power and privilege are abroad the notion of a polity having spoken is very far from the back office meeting rooms of Members of Parliament.

Similarly the Party in Parliament seems not to remember that there is an agreed rule book, where challenges to leadership and appropriate consultaton with the membership can be triggered. Even Parliamentarians should surely remember the effectiveness and telling nature of democracy. I am still in post referendum shock, and now grief for my country, yet I am told I have to live with the result. Such is the democratic process. It applies to all in our Party does it not?

This nature of language for the discourse of power and demcracy is interesting, even in the Labour Party. Listening to Margeret Beckett on Radio Four last week, she opined that Jeremy is a ‘principled and honest man‘, with excuses for some paraphrasing on my part, the description immediately followed by a ‘but’.

The ‘but’ was a lead in to a call for ‘strong leadership’. Do we not have that already. Jeremy has not, to my knowledge, responded to the endless critique of his dress sense, social ideas, support for workers and trade unions and so on He has been consistent and insistent on the need for a political process that is different with the highest values of compassion and resource for a united country.

Is this not the sort of leader we want?

A recent leader article in The Economist, as angry as Ishiguro, defines the present socio-political situation as teetering on the edge of the end of the liberal international order. It sees the referendum result, sponsored by politicians who have trivialised the issues to pursue narrow, personal political gains as…

Anger stirred up a winning turnout in the depressed, down-at-heel cities of England. Anger at immigration, globalisation, social liberalism and even feminism, polling shows, translated into a vote to reject the EU. As if victory were a licence to spread hatred, anger has since lashed Britain’s streets with an outburst of racist abuse.

Source: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21701478-triumph-brexit-campaign-warning-liberal-international-order-politics?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits   Accessed: 02.07.2016

One nation? Only under Labour and only with the support of the compassionate Left and Jeremy Corbyn.


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After Note:

Support the compassionate, active left and join Momentum. You can find their web site and subscription pages here. http://www.peoplesmomentum.com/


This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA
Tim is a paid-up member of The Labour Party and Momentum, living in rural Suffolk.
He is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.
No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

Vale Angliae

ruralLandscape
A darkness descends…

I was driving to my office in Cambridge on Friday morning (24th June 2016), from Suffolk and across the land of a large estate owner.

The early morning sun was shining through the trees and looking, I saw the deer and pheasants abroad in the verges, seeking their early breakfast.

Having an historical sensibility I was reminded of that warm, sunny day I had read about, in the July of 1914 when war was declared. The one which became known as The Great War.

As then, after a climactic announcement, nothing seemed to have changed. There were still scones for tea and sport to be undertaken the next day. Yet then,within four years of complete military, social, economic and cultural destruction, millions were to lie dead from Flanders Fields to the harsh, dusty landscapes of the Middle East and Africa.

There was something of that ‘phoney war’ sensibility about the post ‘Vote Leave’ result. Nothing seemed to have changed, yet as the weekend progressed the markets and our currency were in freefall, we had lost a Prime Minister and within the Labout Party the Shadow Cabinet began to fall on their swords, in order to ferment a revolution in the palace.

The majority of the polity had voted, we were told, to endorse a strange ‘Faragist’ notion of good people declaring themselves against the ruling elite, big banks and an imagined anti-democratic Europe.

There had not been many celebratory banners for European achievements, or detailed analysis of the support the European process has tendered UK communities, workers and business. Populism had triumphed over rationalism and the certitude of achievement made clear.

For that triumphant electoral cohort dissapointment is due. There will be no new hospital built every week, £350 million refunds, or an end to entrance at Dover for the imaginary millions of newly joined Europeans.

We also learned that working class communities in Wales, for example Ebbw Vale, devastated historically by the economic politics of the right and with a history of grants in aid from the EU, running into many millions of euros which had transformed the infrastructure and landscape of whole towns and villages… even they too had voted to leave.

The end results for this referendum are that no assault has begun, or will begin, on banks, international corporations or the movement of individuals across borders. It is unlikely that there is any plan to replace EU funding from core UK budgets to continue the enhancement of disenfranchised communities.

That the next Prime Mnister may be another ex-Etonian, Bullingdon Club member, who enjoys an income and personal resources that would stagger ‘ordinary’ people, I suspect.

The most pernicious and subtle long term consequence is that The Tories, for all their One Nation rhetoric, and the Brexiteers in particular, have divided our nation as never before along new lines. Journalists and data scientists have shown us these new fault lines post-referendum.

The old and the young. The university educated and the not. The social internationalists and the not. The compassionate for immigrants and the not. The Europeans and the not. A constituent part of the UK, or not for Scotland or Northern Ireland. These new schisms could make the old fault lines of major party loyalty seem irrelevant.

I have long been a class-warrior for working class justice and equality, but have striven to achieve an education, to build a small social business, the both done in concert with and supported by other generous and compassionate individuals, that focused on cross community engagement and literacy. I have enjoyed a whole adult life of access to European culture and community which has enriched my economic and social existence.

The referendum has put me at deep odds with my neighbours.

It has shattered my belief and pride in being both European and English with, to the date of the referendum, no recrimination for my socialism, internationalism or multi-culturalism.

Simplistically, it is possible to see the conditionality for conflict in 1914, and on into the The Thirties, as prolonged economic depression, the rise of nationalism and the facism of the far right, all coupled to a resentful Germany. The whole propelling a continent, and our island, to war not once in the twentieth century but twice.

The fear and opportunities for racism the referendum campaign has now created will be abroad in our urban centres, where the newly arrived seek their homes and dreams, for a long time to come. The cross border tensions in our own island will open old wounds and emnities I suspect, as the Six Counties and the Scottish Borders contemplate a non-European future. Labour will be divided, instead of being the natural home for the compassionate.

My distinct personal fear is that the referendum will spiral us back into history, to a socio-political landscape that has more to do with the 1930’s than with the dawn of a New Jerusalem.


After Note:

When I began writing this journal about my inner political landscape only recently, I could not have envisaged the leaving of Europe or the tensions and divisions just taking the decision has engendered.

I could not have imagined writing a political journal from the personal perspective of an immigrant.

However, over the Autumn of 2016 we will be looking for a new home on the European mainland.

There will be a wealth of compare and contrast political assessment to come for a long while, as we mark our new  journey here. Copy I never voted to write…

Vale Angliae.

Tim Smith.


articlesignoffImage


This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA
Tim is a paid-up member of The Labour Party and Momentum, living in rural Suffolk.
He is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.
No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

Clarity in debate: The EU

In the short video below Professor Michael Dougan of the University of Liverpool, the School of Law, offers insights from his professional research on the forthcoming referendum.

This is twenty minutes of exposition truly worth listening to.

In his film Michael Dougan explains how the current, complex and historical engagement with the EU has benefited UK trade and infrastructure. How the tabloid headlines about sovereignty and the lack of democracy are simply wrong and how, in a Europe without the UK, the actual negotiation timetables and lack of formal agreements will stagger UK industrial output and threaten the welfare of workers and citizens.

Leaving the EU would, says Professor Dougan, give the government mandated power from Parliament to effect a root and branch redrawing of the legislatory landscape of our country.

With the right in ascendancy, and no ‘European’ voice of conscience to mediate legislation vested with self interest and the interests of Capital,  workers rights and welfare would be under attack, we would argue.

In another moment of clarity, we hear how the Swiss negotiated their first extra-EU Trade Agreement at the start of the Seventies. Their process is still ongoing. As a counter to the ‘free of regulation, free trade’ proclaimers, in reality many years would pass before we have negotiated our new position with the EU, post leave referendum, with our potential trade partners holding off in terms of their relationship with us until clarity for their interests, not ours, emerges.

The UK EU Referendum takes place on June 23rd, 2016.

Since the end of the Second World War, Europe has been a bastion of civil society development, a cultural and social focus for the proclamation of individual nation state identity and the cauldron of co-operation that has simmered gently for decades to create the single, most powerful, market bar none on the planet. It has been a defense against militarism and a bulkwark against social injustice.

Listen to Michael Dougan’s clear and objective analysis and Vote In on Thursday.

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This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA
Tim is a paid-up member of The Labour Party and Momentum, living in rural Suffolk.
He is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.
No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

Speaking for Labour In

 

 

In a recent speech Jeremy Corbyn succinctly laid out why those of us on the left should vote to remain in Europe. Connected interests, whether for organised labour, educational organisations, social justice or ethical, market driven enterprise…all are more powerfully able to argue their case collectively, rather than in isolation.

In fact, the very basic tenet of a political party with a distinct and clear emancipatory view of the world. The Labour Party in the UK.

Challenges for people across the globe in the 21st Century are many and will continue to be immense. Jeremy outlined the work thus…

How to deal with climate change. How to address the overweening power of global corporations and ensure they pay fair taxes. How to tackle cyber-crime and terrorism. How to ensure we trade fairly and protect jobs and pay in an era of globalisation. How to address the causes of the huge refugee movements across the world, and how we adapt to a world where people everywhere move more frequently to live, work and retire.

(Source: Speech by Jeremy Corbyn, http://www.labour.org.uk/blog/entry/jeremy-corbyn-europe-speech  Accessed 15.06.2016)

The EU and its workings can, by default, often seem complicated and distant from the lives of ordinary people. If only to protect the interests of workers and to be able to have access to the largest market in the world for British enterprise, we should vote to stay in.

In a recent article, A Long Requiem for Europe, we looked at how the the threat of war with our neighbours is best prevented by co-operation. If your neighbour is responsible for a million pounds of your income, you are very unlikely to set fire to his property, in a civilised and ethically framed world of co-operation.

If war has receded forever from Europe, which many think unlikely we are sure, then the economic advantage, the pursuit of social justice and environmental protections needed for a sustainaible future rely on more neighbourly co-operation, not less. Jeremy said…

Britain needs to stay in the EU as the best framework for trade, manufacturing and cooperation in 21st century Europe. Tens of billion pounds-worth of investment and millions of jobs are linked to our relationship with the EU, the biggest market in the world.

(Source: Speech by Jeremy Corbyn, http://www.labour.org.uk/blog/entry/jeremy-corbyn-europe-speech  Accessed 15.06.2016)

If the labrynthine nature of ‘Europe’ causes despair, the cry of an anti-democratic rule by Europe is hollow in reality.

We elect MEP’s to represent our interests, the governments of nation states within the EU have an immense influence and veto rights on legislation. Being in the club, with a right to sit at the table is infinitely preferable to sitting outside shouting at the door.

There is a clear and refining statement of how the EU central processes serve our interests available on the pages of The Guardian this month, June 2016. It quotes research by the London School of Economics that, under Qualified Majority Voting, the UK ‘won’ legislative arguments 87% of the time.

See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/13/is-the-eu-undemocratic-referendum-reality-check  Accessed: 15.06.2016

It may be that we need, in the UK, to embrace the concept of being European more actively, and support and engage with the European Parliamentary process more deeply and effectively. We need, perhaps, to press vigorously for reform in order to make understanding and engagement with our own MEP’s much more effective.

But you need to be in the EU to press for reform…

…democratic reform to make the EU more accountable to its people. Economic reform to end to self-defeating austerity and put jobs and sustainable growth at the centre of European policy, labour market reform to strengthen and extend workers’ rights in a real social Europe. And new rights for governments and elected authorities to support public enterprise and halt the pressure to privatise services.

(Source: Speech by Jeremy Corbyn, http://www.labour.org.uk/blog/entry/jeremy-corbyn-europe-speech  Accessed 15.06.2016)

Vote for the ethical left, vote for an end to tax avoidance, climates of fear and veiled special interests. Vote for social justice and workers rights. Vote for a powerful, democratice and effective collective market place.

‘Vote in’ on the 23rd June 2016.

articlesignoffImage


This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA
Tim is a paid-up member of The Labour Party and Momentum, living in rural Suffolk.
He is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.
No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

A long requiem for Europe?

Heading towrds Europe?

 

The European Union, the European experiment, emerged in the Twentieth Century from an unimaginable horror of war and destruction. The notion that England would withdraw from this partnership, and the largest single economic market in the world, is an idea that is fraught with socio-political tension, community fear and yes, even individual emotion.

No short article can encompass the macro-economic arguments and social disengagement consequences in detail. Indeed, neither it seems can current political debate in the UK. What it does strive to do is contextualise sixty years of being a European and the claim that economic history has on that journey.

Then we vote…

In England we have a long history of conflating a fear of others and economic malaise. William Cecil in a speech to Parliament in 1588, spoke ‘…for a Bill against strangers and aliens selling wares by retail‘(1).

Cecil was socially compassionate but economically rigid.

‘…in the person of the stranger, I consider the miserable and afflicted state of these poor exiles, who, together with their countries, have lost all (or the greatest) comforts of this life, and, for the want of friends, lie exposed to the wrongs ans injuries of the mailicious and ill-effected. The condition of strangers is that they have many harbours but few friends…’

None the less, Cecil was petitioning to ban newly arrived ‘strangers’ from retail sales for a period of seven years. An echo of contemporary embargoes and restraints in our own society?

A lack of humanity, or a disregard for it can, when coupled to a thirst for resources, mineral or geographical, propel states into the onslaught of war. The building of the European Union has its roots in an attempt to mediate the materials and processes of war production, in an attempt to deliver stability and peace for the wider community after 1946.

These are not just empty rhetorical devices from politicians. Although not lucidly expressed by politicians perhaps, economic connection and the duality of market development is our best guarantee of never seeing another European wide war.

In the Twentieth Century one only has to look at the example of Japan, with Imperial and expansionist aims, pitching neighbouring countries into devastating conflict to satisfy its thirst for war material and resources, human or otherwise.(2)

The economist J.K.Galbraith, in a later work, looked back at the emergence of Keynesianism after the Second World War, as a politico-economic philosophy. With the advance of Capital he argued ‘...full employment would no longer be considered the autonomous consequence of the competitive economy. The unemployment equilibrium would now be assumed, and henceforth it would be a deliberate purpose of government to break that equilibrium and ensure full employment in its place‘.(3) ( If only that had been true…).

The current debate on our membership of the European Union has continued elements of these three entwining historical strands. The fear of strangers and immigration, coupled to a failure of any one economic theory to master complex economic models in an everchanging world and the seeming ignorance of the imminence of war, as a pursuit of economic gain by other means.

When coupled to the false ideology and mythology of the plucky, independent island mastering its own destiny, these elemental strands might actually pitch us into an economic downturn, a rising tide of extremism from all corners of the political spectrum and a paucity of well-being, human and capital, for our citizens.

It is these skeins of history that bring us to the vote on European Union membership in June 2016. But it is the conditionality of the previous five hundred years of turmoil that serve as the backdrop for the reality, for the humanity, of our current situation.

Belonging to a group, being in a club of any kind, offers members advantages and constraints. Two hundred years ago the French Declaration of Rights defined liberty as ‘…the freedom to do everything which injures no-one else: the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits, except those which assure to the other members of the society, the enjoyment of the same rights’. ( A concept the writer Gilles Saint-Paul now argues is ‘long forgotten’). (4)

Railing against the imposition of constraints, against the imposition of restraint, is not a new thing either.

The philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, in the 1790’s was ‘…scathing about any attempt by European Alliances to impose their notion of happiness despotically on all other nations on earth‘. Herder railed on ‘…the very thought of a superior culture is a blatant insult to the majesty of nature.’ (5)

Whilst some may see an echo of the contemporary argument about the restraint to sovereignty in Herder’s view, it is an argument leavened by the advantage of freedom of movement, entrpreneurial borderless endeavour and democratic representation that lies at the heart of the individual states that constitiute the EU. We are not dissolving sovereignty, we are enhancing broad geographical opportunities in support of our own interests.

We have heard, from the left, the argument that the EU is part of the global, capital conspiracy. The machinations of TTIP are often cited in evidence. However, surely, as part of the European social partnership, we must be better off with the concerted support of colleagues across the continent to ensure that there is no dilution of the safeguards to work practices and welfare, which can be chipped away by isolationist, idiologically opposed elites and pan-global companies? If capital is a conspiracy, are we not safer as a united family?

The ‘anti-democratic’ cry is also often heard. The EU is a parliamentary body, with elected representatives of our communities charged with voicing our interests. The fact that we might imagine examples of elected members to the European Parliament taking expenses and salaries whilst at the same time working to dissolve the very foundations of the body corporate smacks of moral cowardice and opportunism. It is not the pursuit of your interests or mine we imagined. It is not the fight against internatioanal restraints that hold back humanitarian and economic progress we had dreamed of.

Theories of conspiracy and self interest bring us into the realm of political economy. Utilitarian philosophies of state management, Saint-Paul argues, see their intervention ‘…whether aimed at correcting inequalities or externalites, consider the state as a abstract benevolent entity whose only purpose is to maximise the social welfare function‘.

Political economy, for Saint-Paul ‘…realises that the state is a coalition of real people who are equally self-interested. Instead of maximisation of social welfare, policy is determined by interest groups‘, with the application of policy which seeks ‘…redistribution in favour of powerful lobbies and political majorities‘. (6)

It is these two manichaeistic philosophies of interest and outcome that perhaps sum up the current EU debate. Self interest versus utilitarian social benevolence. We would cleave strongly to the view that the European constitution, the European experiment, is vital to maximise the social welfare functions of government. Vital to deliver this agenda in the midst of a maelstrom of free market, self interest and global corporatism.

We leave the last word to economist Mancur Olsen. He recognised in his research the overwhelming effect that a resurgence in entrepreneurship and innovation, particularly in information technology and communications, which was tempered by developmental pressures from intense foreign competetion, gave to the United States economy in the Twentieth Century.

His argument though was developed to encompass capital and special interests as ultimately being the drivers of paralysis, conflict and stagnation. (7)

We would argue that European aggregation of trade, movement of goods and people and the encouragement of entrepreneurship at the European level is, all at the same time, paradoxically, our best defense against special interests and regional economic paralysis.

and then we vote to remain in Europe.

Notes and sources:

1. The People Speak, Democracy is not a Spectator Sport. Ed. Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove, Connaught Books, Edinburgh, 2014, p.14

2. Japanese Economic Development – Theory & Practice. Penelope Franks, Routledge, London, 1992, p.68

3. A History of Economics – The Past and the Present. John Kenneth Galbraith, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1987, p.

4. The Tyranny of Utility: Behavioural Science and the Rise of Paternalism. Gilles Saint-Paul, Princeton University Press, 2007, p.1

5. The Romantic Economist – Imagination in Economics. Richard Bronk, Cambridge University Press, 2009, p.149

6. The Tyranny of Utility: Behavioural Science and the Rise of Paternalism. Gilles Saint-Paul, Princeton UIniversity Press, 2007, Chapter 3, Economics, Last Bastion of Rationality, p.39

7. Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalsim and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity. W.J. Baunol et al, Yale University Press, 2007, p.229

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This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA
Tim is a paid-up member of The Labour Party and Momentum, living in rural Suffolk.
He is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.
No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

Struggle is the reality!

The mainstream press and right wing political opinion would have us believe that Britain is a nation of millionaires, with a quest to hermetically seal our borders, to the detriment of our trading efficacy, and that individual choice from a menu of abundance is the default position for all ‘hard-working’ families and households in the UK.

How wrong can they be?

The reality for many working families is that choice does not exist and resources do not, under any prevailing economic conditions, match aggregate demand as a household unit. (‘…my income does not even cover my rent…’ a plaintive comment in this film from the Labour Party…).

Policies of austerity and the tolerance of vast inequality in social and economic matters create voices of despair in our communities.

From Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal to the Keynesian interventions in the rebuilding of Europe after devastatingly destructive war and resource depletion, the solution to a fairer, more compassionate and prosperous society is spending on public infrastructure, with that infrastructure in public ownership, and the creation of economic motive and delivery that sees the redistribution of wealth, not downwards for the few, but upwards for the many…vote Labour and change the model!

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This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA
Tim is a paid-up member of The Labour Party and Momentum, living in rural Suffolk.
He is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.
No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

Economic apocalypse? …a versioning

 Afloat in the economic ocean?

 

Are we heading for a new depression, economic collapse or is the ‘great recovery’ under way?

Thomas Carlyle is credited, in reference to the work of Malthus, as characterising economics as a ‘dismal science’. The truth appears to be more prosaic. Carlyle was, in fact, writing about the promotion of slavery, the better to regulate labour and markets. Read more here.

A wonderful example of how pragmatic economic theory changes over time. Not to say that sometimes the moral ascendancy can triumph over cash!

It is ironic that economists, in wrangling with future financial forecasts, gambling in all but name in a free market, should so often be wrong or just plain at odds with each other.

In this short article we look a set of distinct economic analysis, leaving it to the reader to cleave to the one most favoured. What does the future really hold, perhaps we will only know when we get there?

In the mainstream:

Weekly Economics Podcast on Twitter: www.twitter.com/weeklyeconpod
Olivier Vardakoulias Twitter: www.twitter.com/o_vardakoulias
Kirsty Styles on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kirstystyles1

This is is the first of a revised New Economics Foundation weekly podcast on matters economic, always available on SoundCloud. The message from economist Olivier Vardakoulias is cogent, articulate and persuasive. It tracks the major players and movements in world commodity and financial affairs across the coming year, but it does not question the veracity or effectiveness of the market mechanism, nor does it decline to accept the prevailing mores and currency of mainstream financial wisdom.

Drifting to the Left:

This TEDtalk by Yanis Varoufakis of Greece, a libertarian Marxist who has achieved real influence in his home country,  presents a darker picture of the grip of economic policy on the neck of democracy.

Varoufakis presents a bleak future, of a nastier and wasteful economic control of the market that seeks to deny democratic function. His ‘twin peaks’ theory looks at the mountains of cash which are left idle, rather than being invested into productive capapcity to support social and infrastructure change. A ‘mountain of idle debt’ sits alongside ‘massive cash stockpiles’.

In his talk he presents his audience with the Aristotlian thesis of democracy. The constitution in which the free and the poor, being in the majority, control the government. The Athenian model, Varoufakis offers us, gives the poor a say in the workings of the state and in the decisions that affected their lives. The masterless citizen and the working poor.

He sees the current separation of the economic and political sphere as a ‘democracy free zone’. We now see politicians who are in government but not in power. Brilliant!

Economic crisis is coming. Democracy is in danger. This might be the Varoufakis headline.

We go over the cliff:

“Sell everything except high-quality bonds. This is about return of capital, not return on capital. In a crowded hall, exit doors are small.” It said the current situation was reminiscent of 2008, when the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank led to the global financial crisis.

Source: RBS advice to clients in 2015

Albert Edwards is a strategist at the bank Société Générale, and he echoes the advice from RBS in a telling article in The Guardian early in January this year. See the full text here.

Edwards declares that the state of the US economy is in far worse shape than the Federal Reserve is willing to declare, and that the huge credit expansion in the US is designed to facilitate share buy-backs. It is not, Edwards opines, ‘real economic activity’. This pressure is matched by an equally large collapse of credit demand in China, for example.

The Guardian article makes much of the seismic shifts currently taking place in national economies, with the proviso that much of it is undeclared, and that, in reality, the crisis is upon us.

Hard evidence of debt accumulation, cash accrual by international corporates and banks, and the crushing weight of default for the ordinary citizen is not hard to find.

deleveragingGenevaReportcoverPic2
Full Report, pdf.

In the Geneva Report on the World economy, No. 16, ICMB, International Center for Monetary and Banking Studies 2014, lies a wealth of data and analysis regarding the last financial crisis and the fires being stoked for the next.

On page 3 of the report, in this section, is a comparative graphic of the rising levels of financial assets in mature economies and in emerging economies.

What is interesting is the feature that the proportion of bonds and banking stock remain relatively similar over time and in both comparators. However, levels of debt, or rather outstanding loans, and stock market capitalisation contunully rise across both comparators, although the scales are different, a la Varoufakis.

Also interestingly, in the Policy Options section of the report (Page 81 onwards) there is no argument presented to counter the prevailing theory that re-capitalisation of failing banks with public money is both desirable and necessary.

Here at CollCon we lean away, by instinct, from the capitalist conspiracy theory of the economy. However, with lack of challenged thinking and ‘citizen focused’ solutions on the agenda, something of the mystery of unseen collaboration is hard to escape.

We were reading this week a rather telling article on the web pages of War on Want. In them a German MP, Katja Kipping, attempts to gain access to the new ‘public’ library of the TTIP negotiations in Berlin.

For the economically minded, democratic social activist it is an alarming read…

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This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA
Tim is a paid-up member of The Labour Party and Momentum, living in rural Suffolk.
He is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.
No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...