Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why was the Party formed? Why and how has it changed?


First the brief and short introductions:

The first is from the Labour Party itself:

The next from our dear friends at Wikipedia:

7 December The Labour Party, trade unions and democratic socialism: where did it all come from, where can it go?

Following on from the discussion on the economic crisis will now start to explore the answer to the question: what can be done about it?

The Labour Party was formed to represent the working class in the UK, so has over a 100 year history of trying to change the way capitalism works. It is a useful starting point to explore the question and whether the Labour Party has, or is likely to, find lasting and what type of answers to the questions raised in the previous discussion.

The suggestion is that we take it in parts but if you wish you may like to suggest other approaches.

1. Why was the Party formed? Why and how has it changed? Why are some organisations like trade unions, affiliated to the Party? Is it part of an international socialist movement? What lessons for today can be drawn from this experience?

2. What is the difference between 'social democracy',  'democratic socialism', 'communism', 'anarchism,' 'reform' and 'revolution'? To what extent have any of these terms applied to the Labour Party and are they still relevant?

3. How does the Party work? Does it provide sufficient democratic opportunities for members to influence debates and policies? Should the Party have more influence over Labour Government actions and policy?

4. To what extent is it possible for the Labour Party to propose significant and structural changes to the way capitalism works and still get elected?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The economic crisis discussion meeting 28 September

Don't forget that our first PCLP discussion meeting on the economy takes place Wednesday 28 September at 19.00 in the Labour Offices, Morgan St, Pontypridd. Members, affiliates and supporters are all welcome. See the August postings for more details about this and other meetings and topics throughout the year.

This web blog will remain as an ongoing collective resource that anyone can use and add to.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rant corner

This is the bit where we can say what we like.

Here is a recent one of my own.

It is possible to suggest a fairly simple explanation for what is happening, although the solution suggested by such an explanation would be far reaching. Anyway, putting my economic historian hat on and as an avid analyser of capitalism over the last 40 years here goes.

1. Value of any sustainable good or service depends on someone ‘adding value’ through labour.

2. Investment in nearly all advanced economies has moved away from this form of production as the rate of profit has declined in these areas of activity relative to profitable in areas like finance. I can suggest an explanation as to why this is so, but just stay with the argument for the moment. Put simply if you can turn money into money and make a profit why bother with the messy business of employing people and investing in equipment.

3. The financialisation of the international economy has grown out of all proportion over the last 50 years. In the stock market valuation of US companies the ratio of financial corporation profits to non-financial corporations’ profits had risen from about 6% in the early 1950s to the early 1960s to around 26% in 2001. Global financial assets were equal to 316% of annual world output in 2005 as against only 109% in 1980.

4. Money to money profitability is very risky however, it is basically a poisonous game of an ever faster ‘pass the parcel’ with the loser who ends up with all the useless investment going bankrupt and having to be bailed out by the state when the crisis hits. The winner meanwhile runs off with massive profits.

5. As the role of financialistion grows in the economy the bigger the risk to the whole economy and this is what happened in 2008. Essentially around $10 trillion in global wealth went up in smoke. A sum greater than the whole output of the EU economy in a single year.

6. Essentially that is a ‘deflationary’ effect. $10 trillion in effective demand is removed from the international economy at may yet translate into actual price falls.

7. Initially governments have printed money ‘qualitative easing’ and borrowed to try to plug the hole left in total world demand. The hope was stimulate a Keynesian economic multiplier effect whereby government spending leads to jobs and wages, which leads to demand and more jobs and wage etc.

8. This was starting to happen but the financial markets already spooked by the higher risk they experienced in 2008 have become wary of government borrowing to fill the demand hole. Hence they stop lending to governments unless at very high rates.

9. So how else do we fill the $10 trillion hole? Well, argue the capitalists, by bringing supply and state spending into line with the decreased money and capacity that is left and at the same time increase the rate of profit to encourage investment. And how is that to be done if not through the multiplier? Making the working class pay in every way possible in terms of jobs, social benefits, pensions, selling state assets as in Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, UK and the now the US, to again raise the rate of profit on other forms of investment and in the very painful long run, start investment going again. However it will only happen if the goods can be sold for money and that will only happen if effective demand starts to increase again for goods and services. But if the state is not purchasing and real wages of have fallen that can't happen. Ipso facto: back to point 2.above.

10. Capitalism will survive if the working class is now prepared to permanently pay the cost but at an unequal and lower level, hence the fightbacks across the world: they are all about who will pay the cost of the bankers crisis. A crisis they created by chasing money to money profitability. It is their way of life against ours.

11. Answers? Well if we are not to accept the cuts and Keynesian economics are not working we need to consider what the economy should really be about and moving large sections of economic activity, finance and investment out of being used just to increase the rate of profit and orientate it through a democratically controlled planning process into the adding of value for the social and public good: in old fashioned terms production for need and not for profit. Back to point 1.

There we are, now just add yours... 

Questions and jargon

Here is a space to just ask anything.

I'll start:
What is the difference between the deficit and the national debt?
What is quantitative easing?
What is meant by monetary and fiscal policy?
What is the difference between the CPI and the RPI?
Why did we have to bail out the banks?
How do speculators get away with it?

Anything... just add in the comments.

Democratic socialism, Labour and the alternatives?

Neo-liberalism is a direct challenge to democracy and socialism. It seeks to offer an alternative to political democracy as we understand it substituting it with consumers through the market. As far as possible, they argue, state provision needs to be replaced by private provision accountable only through purchase and contractual relationships. It is a hollowing out of democracy as we know it and as such is a direct challenge to the democratic state route that Labour has largely supported. Privatisation is also a direct challenge to socialism through restrictions on state aid in the EU and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and in particular the General Agreement on Tariffs and Services (GATS) which lock provision into the market once it is de-nationalised: you cannot go back. So it seems any challenge to private ownership and the market which is implied by democratic socialism is a structural challenge to how capitalism now works as a whole.

What do we do about this as a Party?

Here are some sources which refer to alternatives:

This is just the tip of the iceberg - please add more.

Climate change and a green economy?

Again, apologies to purists but Wikipedia is still a good start:

The New Economic Foundation website is also full of amazing stuff, particularly on the issue of whether the steady state (no growth) economy is possible:
They produced the Green New Deal in 2008:
and a good publication on the steady state economy:

See also Molly Scott Cato who keeps a regular flow of comment and updates in this area:

Again any further contributions in comments.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Marxism - can the bearded one still be relevant?

Again lazy start Wikipedia:

Then really back to Harman and Harvey - both excellent introductions.

Good link to Stewart Lansley while strictly not Marxist actually makes a number of similar points with a contemporary relevance:

Who and what is Keynesianism?

Sorry about this but real lazy Wikipedia as a start again:

Hugely funny video which covers the Hayek / Keynes debate:

Paul Krugman who is currently the most forthright defender of Keynes speaks at Yale University on Keynes and the current crisis:

See also the recent edition of the New Statesman which provides a classic Keynesian analysis of the current situation:

Please add in the comments section

What is neo-liberalism?

Just to get the ball rolling I though I'd suggest some of the type of things you may wish to add.

I know I shall be criticised but Wikipedia happens to be a good starting point so take a look at:

David Harvey has written recently and extensively from a left critical perspective his book is: (2005). A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199283265
And there are some online lectures that you may be interested in:

An animated version of his ideas (really animated):

13 free lecturers that have had an international audience of over 700,000:

Chris Harman from an SWP perspective but his book on the current economy and a left critique of neo-liberalism is excellent: Zombie Capitalism: Global Crisis and the Relevance of Marx (London, 2009) ISBN 978-1-905192-53-3

Chris Harman and David Harvey video debate:

John Cassidy I would suggest has written one of the most accessible books taking apart the classical economic theories that underpin neo-liberalism from a critical but not necessarily left perspective: Cassidy, John (2009). How markets fail : the logic of economic calamities. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780374173203.

Professor Richard D Wolff an American Marxist who writes and speaks very accessibly. These are audio recordings of his talks to students and staff at the University of Vienna and I found them both insightful and inspiring:

See his website:

And a cracking video:

And an entire course of 38 videos:

Well this is my personal selection. Please add whatever you like in the comments.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The current economic crisis: what are the causes and possible solutions?

28 September 2011 our first PCLP education meeting will take place at the PCLP offices in Morgan St Pontypridd starting at 19.00.

Labour Party members both from within and beyond the constituency are welcome to attend and take part in this blog as are local affiliated members and supporters.

Causes and solutions to the current economic crisis will be the first topic.

I've an old edition of a Left Book Club book called Man's Wordly Goods published in 1937 and written by an American socialist called Leo Huberman. I still think it is one of the most amazing and accessible books that I've read but look at this quote. The Hobson he refers to is John A Hobson who could be described as the left supporter of J M Keynes and Professor Hayek is non other than the inspirer of Thatcher and through Milton Freedman, neo-liberalism.

"And the interesting thing is that they are both right - and wrong. Hobson is right in arguing that higher wages and expanded social services would provide a necessary market for the increasing supply of commodities; he is wrong in that raising wages mean lowering the immediate profits of production. Hayek is right in arguing that lower wages and restricted social services would increase immediate profits of production; he is wrong in that lowering wages means destroying the market for the increased supply of commodities. Hobson is concerned with restoring the market (and so profitability) by increasing the purchasing power of the masses; Hayek is concerned with the restoring profitability by decreasing the purchasing power of the masses (wage-cuts).
And here, according to the followers of Karl Marx is the dilemma of capitalism - it cannot do both. Therefore, they argue, crises are inevitable under capitalism."

Written in 1937 - but eerily familiar to our ears in 2011. Here is our starting point: is this debate as relevant now as it sounded then?

What I'd like to suggest is that before and after the meeting on the 28th anyone who is interested might like to make a contribution through the comments section of this blog. Here are a few ideas and questions that it may be useful to follow through. Only suggestions mind - you might think of others.

The idea is that we could help each other by providing our favourite internet links or own text that help to come to grips with some key ideas and debates. Texts could be short and accessible or reference to key books and articles or you may prefer to provide your own words.

1. What is 'neo-liberalism' and how has it been applied over the last 40 years?
2. What is 'Keynesianism' and is it still relevant?
3. What is 'Marxism' is it relevant to us today and did it fail in the so called communist countries?
4. Does any of this still matter if they are all just concerned about growth and the consequence is climate change that will destroy us all?
5. Can democratic socialists draw anything out of these debates to support policies that will end the type of financial crisis we are currently experiencing?

Over to you...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Starting the year 2011 - 2012


I hope it doesn't sound trite but this is the start of a collective journey.

Following the annual general meeting of the constituency where it was agreed that we should establish a year long education / discussion process I (as the PCLP political and education officer) put a proposal to the executive which was largely agreed with some changes.

Here it is:

We will have 6 bi-monthly discussion sessions over the year starting in late September or early October.
The sessions will be on Wednesday evenings starting at 19.00 and aiming to finish at 21.00 but the booking of the room will be such to allow us to continue.
All the sessions will take place in the Labour Party offices in Pontypridd.
Whilst the sessions are aimed at constituency members the intention is to open them out to other party members, local supporters and affiliates.
We will sometimes have 'big name' speakers but the intention is really to encourage participation through contributions and discussions, so this site becomes important as a way of preparing for the evening sessions.
Although sessions sound heavy and theoretical the idea is to use this site and the start of the sessions to introduce the main debates but then relate them to current ongoing issues. The idea really is to dig a bit deeper to see if we can explore possible causes to problems and then perhaps suggest some radical and creative possible policy answers. Hence the journey.

Here is the method and the initial themes I proposed to the executive:


Having a ‘major’ speaker is one way. However, it can limit the amount of discussion and member input and lead to ‘guru’ style sessions. I would like to suggest that we consider a self education approach where we draw on a range of techniques including a speaker input if it considered relevant. The sort of techniques I had in mind are:

·        Establish a collective prereading or reviewing list of short but relevant texts and other media. Wider reading can be recommended for before and after the sessions.

·        Ongoing discussion could be encouraged through informal sessions and electronically. I don’t think our Facebook discussion group has worked well so would suggest a blog format using ‘blogspot’ which people can access directly through any computer without having to register first.

·        The three hour sessions could be started off with our own presentations setting up positions and a debate. Members and participants could do a bit of research and make short presentations and can share chairing. Discussion could then take place in a variety of formats. We should consider further debate, research or recommendations as an aim of the sessions.


At the GMC in February this year we had a discussion about issues that concerned members and these can be used as a guide to themes. Additionally, as this is the first time this has been attempted it could be used as an opportunity to cover some of the basic issues that underpin the politics of the Labour Party.

The following six would enable the capture of these aims and have now been organised. All will be in the Labour Party offices Morgan St Pontypridd starting at 19.00.

1.    The current economic crisis: what are the causes and possible solutions?
Wednesday 28 September 2011

2.    The Labour Party, trade unions and democratic socialism: where did it come from, where can it go?
Wednesday 30 November 2011

3.    Power, class, discrimination and social exclusion: meaning, relevance and answers?
Wednesday 25 January 2012

4.    Is the planet under threat from climate change and if so, how can it be avoided?
Wednesday 28 March 2012

5.    The EU, nationalism, internationalism, peace and militarism: what is the best way to secure a safe and peaceful world?
Wednesday 30 May 2012

6.    To what extent are we a democratic society? What more could be done to share control, openness and accountability?
Wednesday 25 July 2010

Give me a little time to get the administration in place and I will then open a post for the first session with some suggested areas of discussion and reading and then you can add anything you like in the comments.

Let me know what you think. Comment away.