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REVIEW: Generations apart – high hopes and stolen dreams ColdType editor Tony Sutton reviews “Class Work”, by Peter Rowley

Tony Sutton

Grimsby’s Fishermen Memoral statue (photo credit: here.)

1970s school leavers tell how industrial decline and political incompetence shattered their town and fragmented the community

There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, when the English fishing town of Grimsby proudly lived up to its full name – Great Grimsby (so named to distinguish itself from a nearby village, Little Grimsby). Situated at the mouth of the Humber in North East Lincolnshire, it was the world’s biggest fishing port, lording over the North Atlantic deep-sea fishing grounds.

The fishermen were, Peter Rowley tells us in his book Class Work, ‘three-day millionaires’, who braved often-terrifying weather during weeks-long voyages before returning to indulge themselves during short breaks at home. Their haunt was Freeman Street, the town’s main shopping artery. Close to the docks, it was “a vital area, full of life, more akin to a wild west frontier town”, says Rowley.

The fishermen, “identified by their suits, powder blue, bottle green, red, yellow, expensive and distinctive with pleats and belted jackets”, have long gone, their industry shattered by the triple hammer of ruinous ‘cod wars’ with Iceland in the 1970s and 1980s, the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy, and Margaret Thatcher’s devastating 11-year reign as British prime minister.

Freeman Street, formerly “packed with shoppers, tailors, jewellers, a plethora of watering holes and a massive conveyor belt of semi-skilled and unskilled employment”, hit the nadir of its 40-year decline in 2018 when it was declared the ‘Unhealthiest High Street in Britain’, due to the number of takeaway food outlets, betting shops and off licence booze outlets that fill the spaces between now-shuttered storefronts.

A former schoolteacher and college lecturer, Rowley describes the period covered by Class Work as one of “political upheaval, stunning change, an economy on a roller coaster as seen through the eyes of Grimsby school leavers from the 1970s to the present”.

His book is an oral history, told by ex-students of Harold Street Secondary School, that traces the transformation of the town’s East Marsh area – which provided the crews for the town’s trawler fleets – from a deep-rooted, close-knit community into an outpost of almost paralysed decay, afflicted by drugs, violence and other anti-social behaviour.

Their stories highlight the pressing need for stronger links between community, schools and industry to enable children to progress through an education system designed to prepare them for quality work that pays the bills, provides for the needs of a family, and encourages further education and training for personal and career advancement.

That might sound like an utopian dream, but it is precisely what existed in Grimsby and other British towns and cities before Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal disrupters emerged in the late 1970s to trash the existing, but already fragile, post-war status quo.

*

Rowley’s ex-pupils, who attended Harold Street from 1969 to 1976, were at the bleeding edge of a union-busting, money-grubbing political blitz that caused much of the industrial decline that has ravaged the north of England over the past 35 years.

In this period, Grimsby’s East Marsh was transformed from what ex-pupil Diana Sanford remembers as, “a friendly place where there was a genuine community spirit where people looked out for one another”, into one in which, “We have landlords who buy bulk houses and have no interest in offering a decent standard of service. Drugs are endemic and family situations challenging. Some seem to lack any real aims or purpose in life, which inevitably leads to a lack of self-esteem, pride and self-respect”.

Freeman Street, Grimsby, 1970s

Freeman Street, Grimsby, present day

That splintering of community is also noted by Karon Kennington, who recalls a time when “the area bustled with life and there were corner shops everywhere”. But it degenerated so much she was forced to “move my dad out of the family home in 2008. Basically, he was frightened by the vandalism and crime. He became a virtual recluse in his own home. It’s not the Grimsby I grew up in”.

Kennington adds, “I think today’s school leavers would be shocked at how I got my first job. The careers officer came to school with a batch of job cards. My friend was interested in fashion and got a job in a fashion shop”, while she and two others found were given work in the food hall of a department store.

In contrast, Rob Rowntree, a pupil at the school from 1969 to 1974, is infuriated at the cynicism of the great youth employment cover-up by today’s Tory government:

My lad is at Primark. He works 32 hours per month. He doesn’t pay tax. That’s how you get a ‘jobs miracle’, four/five jobs created where really the hours are consistent with one full-time genuine job. The community is collapsing from within”.

*

In the second part of Class Work Rowley lays the blame for the decay that has bedevilled working-class communities on Thatcher’s destructive spell in power from 1979 to 1990, famously characterised by her much-reviled quote, “There is no such thing as society…”

She was determined to upset the often-uneasy equilibrium that had existed between workers and bosses during the post-war years and set about eliminating worker power. Her increasingly-harsh actions culminated in crushing the mineworkers’ strike of 1983-84, which helped shatter trade unions and paved the way to the crisis that exists today.

Thatcher’s attitude to young workers was displayed when her Tory government set up the Manpower Services Commission, a youth training programme to help youngsters find jobs. Agreeing with cynical observers, who claimed the scheme served only to mask real unemployment figures, Rowley highlights the arrogance and condescension of the commission, whose boss, David Young, declared in a 1982 newspaper article that, “Youth rates of pay in Britain are far too high … The young should be a source of cheap labour”.

Young also advised employers, “You now have the opportunity to take on young men and women, train them and let them work for you almost entirely at our expense, and then decide whether or not to employ them”.

His thoughts were amplified in an MSC memo a couple of years later which concluded that, “People must be educated once more to know their place”. Working class people needed, it seemed, to be “re-socialised to be more acceptable to employers”.

This mindset was shared by Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson who bluntly declared that the government’s intentions towards youth training were, “No tech rather than low tech”.

The future for Britain’s youth, notes Rowley, “seemed to be as a nation of personal servants, textile sweatshops, burger flippers and caterers for tourists in a giant heritage theme park”.

35 years later, the effects of that Tory ideological groupthink, continued by Tony Blair’s New Labour, and culminating in a crippling austerity campaign by the Cameron/May Tory government are clear. The hopes and dreams of several generations have been dashed by the greed of asset-stripping hucksters, who have denuded industry, off-shored profits, introduced zero-hour contracts, and created the most unequal society in a century.

*

What of the future? Well, we shouldn’t expect to see free-spending fishermen parading down Grimsby’s Freeman Street in their colourful suits any time soon, but there are signs of hope in regeneration projects underway – parts of the main street are being demolished to make way for housing and offices, while heavy investment is also being made in the offshore wind farm industry.

And the people on the East Marsh? Rowley tells us that the area’s Shalom Youth Club, led for 40 years by vicar John Ellis, has had a huge influence on recent generations, helping youngsters escape the nihilistic emptiness of life without hope, while also running a thrice-weekly soup kitchen. “I was looking through some old Church records and there was a soup kitchen on this site in 1861,” says Ellis. “It records an oxen head being made into stew for the poor. It’s like back to the future”.

Almost without exception, concludes Rowley, everyone interviewed in Class Work remembers Grimsby’s East Marsh area in the 1970s as a happy, integrated community.

Something has been lost that cannot be replaced and the town is now diminished because of it. A community built on physical resilience and the ability to work incredibly hard has vanished.

We are now at a crossroads. What is required in towns like Grimsby are all the elements of Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist programme of change, to replace a brutal neoliberal ideology which has patently failed the mass of people in society”

Rowley believes the next UK general election (slated for 2022, but likely to happen sooner) may be the last chance to begin the process of making Grimsby – and Britain – ‘Great’ again. “It is not merely winning the election, it is about changing the course of history by a permanent transformation in the balance of power and changing a system currently rigged against working people”, he says.

But will Corbyn get a chance to introduce changes that will cater ‘for the many, not the few?’ It’s anybody’s guess now that the country has become so divided after three years of the Tory party’s Brexit disaster.

That, along with the mass media’s relentlessly cynical campaigns against Corbyn, has helped generate huge working class support for political chancer Nigel Farage and his single-issue concoction, the Brexit Party, which advocates a swift and chaotic exit from Europe – with scant regard to the consequences.

Citizens of Grimsby’s East Marsh should be rooting for Corbyn: if Farage wins power, their suffering will almost certainly get worse.

Class Work is available through Amazon.

Postscript: Class Work put author Peter Rowley in contact with East Marsh United, a residents’ group committed to transforming their area. The group has won more than £1-million to support projects in construction training and community housing projects, as well as the acquisition of a community centre. The author is donating all royalties from Class Work to Shalom Youth Club on Grimsby’s East Marsh.
Tony Sutton is the editor of ColdType, a free pdf magazine. This article was published in the Mid-June issue. Contact him at [email protected]
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BigB
BigB

Interesting discussions below: but what about entropy? People can disagree and downvote: but the analysis I do is sound – because it is based on biophysical reality. And that renders all other analysis – empiric or not – as void …because the fundamental realities of economy and ecology are being ignored. It’s not about me: that’s the Laws of Physics. I just respect them.

For instance: what has and EROI of 6.2:1? The UK. I’ve linked to the University of Leeds working paper before – and explained it. An economy with an EROI of 6.2:1 is an economy on the edge of collapse – which is exactly what it feels like North of Watford …and in Grimsby, of course. For economic growth: an economy needs a minimum 11:1. Where do we get the extra energy and material resources from?

This is a serious science-based question. Our energy decline is not uncommon: it is a global phenomena …an entailment of the biophysical system we live in. Forget Labour, the EU, and Brexit – our entire problem is that society – elite or not – absolutely refuses to live in the real world. Any analysis that ignores entropy is imaginary. Our problems are probably beginningless. The modern iteration dates back to the late 19th century and the Third Industrial Revolution – from coal to oil. A transition that took 70 years. Here we are in the second half of the Petroleum Interval – and we haven’t even begun to think of transition.

Worse than that: the transition to the ‘Climate Economy’ – the Fourth Industrial Revolution …with Labour leading the way with it’s ‘Climate Emergency’ – is a science fiction fantasy invented to save neoliberal globalism.

Entropy is not an isolated and localised phenomena – limited to ‘Grimsby’. The solutions cannot be reductively expressed locally. The problems of entropy are universalised by being entailed within the very fabric of the system. I do not, and cannot, understand how this can be ignored. We live in an entropic worldsystem with limited finite resources. How can anyone rationally deny this?

We can’t: yet the entire socio-political paradigm is based on negentropy and the limitless imaginarium. It is not like this hasn’t been analysed to death. And still it is more or less universally accepted that we can grow and debt-fund forever. This is simply insane. There is no rational reasoning for this – it is beyond imaginary.

If and when it becomes rational to accept fact: and epistemologically grounded reason …it might reveal where I am coming from. We cannot have Labour’s policies: we cannot have anyones negentropic policies – they are imaginary. If applied to the real world: they will fail …because they are imaginary. They will fail and negate any chance of a viable transition. How long will it take for everyone to accept fact?

There is a growing gulf between the epistemological and the ontological. Ontogenesis means you can make up anything and justify it with statistics generated from elegant mathematical formulae – but it is not real. The negentropic cannot function in the real world. It is so simple: but entire societies and political economies cannot comprehend entropy, the exponential function, and the simple root axiom that growth is limited. And we reached those limits some time back, ignored them, and carried on.

I’d like to point out that in the 70s, when growth peaked – there were around 3.3bn less people; we have quadrupled extractivism since then – so there were many more resources available for transition; and around 50% 0f GHG emissions occurred from the 90s. In other words, we could be nearly 50 years into a transition into a steady state post-carbon life of luxury. Except for the socio-political imaginarium.

Now, we are 50years into denial and resources are exponentially being depleted; unrepayable debts are mounting exponentially; etc. We are vastly delimiting our options – in inverse proportion to our consumption now …the future is diminishing. We cannot even begin to mitigate our hyper-consumption of the future and foreclosing a prosperous successor society until we accept the simple facts of physics. Why is this so impossible?

Acceptance demands a new emergent political-economy. One that cannot become a real force while people dally in their imaginations. Reality will catch up with us soon enough. It will be too late then for regrets and melodramatics about the lack of preparedness. All this talk of Labour is not even in the right paradigm. Labour are the past: and the future cannot be realised all the time the socio-political economics is stuck in dreams of the past.

Kathy
Kathy

I agree with you on this. The idea that we can keep consuming and industrializing is part of the problem. I think that people have been sucked into the idea that we are meant to work for a boss and that this defines our status is part of the problem. In the end we recreate the same experiment of bacteria in a petri dish. We expand and expand and then have to fold back onto ourselves. It is the boom and bust model. Coal fish oil. They are all ultimately likely to be used up and gone if we keep consuming with out due care and without thought for the future. It is breaking away from the paradigm of the state and system as is that sets us free. Labour support the rights of the worker but still maintains that we work within the system and for the man.

BigB
BigB

The thing about biophysical economics – measuring entropy as EROI – is that we can actually measure where we are …to a greater degree of certainty – depending on the quantity and quality of available data – compared to climate change, species extinction, or waste and pollution …for instance. Focusing on factors of wealth, commodified as GDP, is perhaps the most distorted view of humanities spiritual wellbeing and development.

Essentially, we have had over ten years of pointless ‘growth’ created by cosmetic monetisation of debt. In the UK, we monetise £5.20 of debt to make £1 GDP, which is crazy [Source: Dr Tim Morgan]. It is only cheap credit that masks the real depth of our recession. Capital bought off labour in the 1980s by substituting credit for wages. But cosmetic credit creation could not last, and now it has run out.

If we are suddenly to manifest the extra resources to return to full employment and growth: where will they come from? Overseas? Energy cannot be created, only converted. That means those who have are living off those who have to do without – the resource curse. This is energy imperialism.

The entire planet is in energy and resource deficit now. The real economy is shrinking, the overfinancialised debt deflationary economy is outgrowing the actual amount of biophysical resources available. So we are debt funding. But debt becomes a meaningless claim on future resources and labour. As debt expands: it is claiming biophysical resources that do not exist. Which renders capital meaningless. Not least as a per capita human development indicator.

Debt is neither a biophysical resource nor an energy source: it’s a planetary IOU …one that planetary life support systems are struggling to pay. So the biophysical economy must contract while debt expands. The teleology is obvious: but 99.9999% of people choose to remain oblivious. After all, I and a few others have been making these comments for a couple of years now.

So the materialist paradigm is over: even though it seems to perpetuate …all we are consuming is debt deflation. And Labour’s – not to single them out, the entire global political imaginary is defunct – policies are nostalgic desire-dreams.

Work: we cannot reach full employment in an entropic global economy when there is nothing to make. Global manufacturing has a massive overcapacity and under-utilisation problem due to entropy. If work employment, materials, markets, and energy are all contracting – Labour’s nostalgic unionised military-Keynesian paradigm is defunct and no longer real world applicable. Which means fiscal and monetary policy has to be based on debt: or redistributive taxation of ‘wealth creators’ – who are taxing the life out of the planet.

Tech: AI precipitates an even greater redundancy of the work paradigm. As fintech – the faster and faster financialisation of everything is a meaningless indulgence of scarce resources. Resources that could go to welfare or education. ASI Fintech over-financialisation is actually destroying community and social welfare – we literally do not need all that finance capital. It is a distribution crisis; not a capital crisis we are creating.

In a world of dwindling energy resources: energy conservation and application are crucial. Energy must be a sovereign resource. The energy proposals in the Climate Change Committee report (CCC) – which May has begun to enact, but Labour will no doubt endorse – is based on three main energy technologies that are energy sinks. They destroy more energy than they can carry or create. And they are incredibly resource hungry. Resources that will have to come from elsewhere: which is green imperialism.

Ditto food: which must be a sovereign resource too. We can no longer afford to be at the end of global ‘just-in-time’ supply chains – which means deglobalisation. But the City – where much of the tax funding must come from – their main business model is financialised economic globalisation. And Labour is limited in deficit funding by its own Fiscal Credibility Rule. If they cannot raise enough tax: they will have to stop spending.

There is so much more – suffice to say Labour’s politics are from another time, another place. In real world terms they are now defunct and imaginary. But capturing the public imagination means that the real world problems of debt deflation and entropy continue unaddressed. Time and entropy are not ‘symmetric’ – that is reversible. If we use dwindling entropic finite resources on an imaginary future: the real future is foreclosed. And if we do that on a global scale …well, we will not be thanked.

Kathy
Kathy

There is a problem with taking a small section of time and trying to fit it to a reductive narrative. The malaise and trauma of the people is and has been a long and drawn out process. You could argue that people started to lose their power and sense of community when they were forced from the land. Instigating a need to work for the man, and not for their own endevour. It is a moot point when this began but over generations and time, people were forced into jobs at a low pay and into towns and cities away from their ancestral land. The industrial revolution forced great numbers to seek work away from family and into greater servitude. A sense of belonging and continuity lost. In this new world of exploitative enslavement the exploitation was complete. Housing, food and fuel for warmth and cooking needed to be purchased from another. Each time the people rebuild communities and re- find a sense of status and belonging they are ripped apart by market forces and the trauma is inflicted anew. I know this is a little reductive but my point is the land enclosures was the first trauma. The roll out and continuation of down grading of the peoples lives and of reducing their rights and status has been long slow and drawn out and continually exploited and played by the ruling class. The miners put up a good fight and one I saw at first hand. It was heart breaking to witness the light going out of the peoples eyes. This has all led us to here . This is now where the people find themselves yet again.Each time we find a sense of self it is pulled away from us and we all fall further down the snake and into ever increasing trauma and poverty. It is this trauma and displacement that increases despair and alcoholism and drug taking. It is why knife crime increases and people value their own and other peoples life with less regard. Life becomes less hopeful and respect is lost and hope is diminished. But people will pull themselves up from the ashes because this is human nature. Hopefully one day we will all throw off the yoke of enslavement and become free again.

mark
mark

The US Budget Deficit for the year has just passed $1 trillion.
Uncle Sam id the biggest scrounger and panhandler on the planet.

Sackerson
Sackerson

You’ve missed the point. All this happened after we joined the EU and Heath had had no idea what is was going to do to the fishing industry. Getting out is the first step, not the last.

mark
mark

No, it’s not that he didn’t know, he just didn’t care. Just expendable sacrificial lambs for paedo Heath and his pet EU project.

BigB
BigB

It’s a shame: because the author seems like a genuinely concerned person. So I will frame my comment more generally,

This Labour propaganda piece highlights the problem of the Labour parochial mentality. The neoliberal triumph of capital over labour; and the more specific problem of the collapse of supposedly ‘sustainable’ fisheries is a global economic and ecological problem. One that cannot be framed in isolation through the lens of “Grimsby”.

The ecological problems of overconsumption and overexploitation are intrinsically entailed in the economic problems of over-capitalisation and over-financialisation. Add in innapropriate technological progress for the sake of growth for the sake of progressive infinite expansion This Wetiko psychosis is leading only to collapse of the economic and/or the ecological life support systems.

Reductive materialist framing reduces global ecological and economic trends to the environs of “Grimsby”. Vote Labour proposes solutions for the UK: while its ‘pro-business’ fiscal and monetary policies propose a minimal redistributive policy that supports the neoliberal global economic globalisation model that is precipitating potential collapse. Which renders Labour as a practico-inert Europhile and Eurocentric ‘business-as-usual’ model of neoliberal desecration and dehumanisation.

So what is the solution? There is no solution so long as we apply reductive materialist framing and naively formulate what amount to anglocentric racist green imperial solutions. There is no global class solidarity framing to propose the counter-hegemon to economic neoliberal globalisation. So capital continues to triumph over Labour – globally. Pseudo-Left practico-inert framing and ‘pro-business’ (pro-capital) reductive materialist solutions are actually state-capitalist collusions. Especially within the EU single market and Customs Union – which makes any more progressive policies a null hypothesis …to fool the gullible into believing Labour offer any real solutions at all. With their support of NATO, Magnitsky sanctions-led Russophobic imperialism; etc …Labour are part of the problem. A solution only for those who want capital to triumph ultimately over labour, humanity, and the biosphere …by collapsing the economy and ecology with psychotic greed.

If labour and humanity want to fight back against trans-national capital and neoliberal globalisation: first – we will have to stop cheering them on. Then frame the world problems as inter-connected – which they are. The economy is biophysical – not financial. Labour and capital are on the same trajectory entailing near-future collapse. Capital and ‘pro-business’ euphemisms are commited to ever more capitalised solutions. Only labour and humanity (around 80% of whom are already externalised from the capitalised global system) can perhaps alter the trajectory …or more likely propose universal humanist solutions for the future …if we want one: vote labour, not Labour.

andyoldlabour
andyoldlabour

The EU has 28 member states, and in an ideal World all of those states would have identical economies, the same currency, same GDP, same living standards and the same currency.
However, the reality is very different and very harsh and the pro EU fanboys don’t want to tell folks this, because it is very bad news for ordinary people trying to earn a crust in so called “richer countries”.
Across Eastern Europe, the AVERAGE WAGE is around ONE THIRD of the MINIMUM WAGE in the UK.
My wife and I have been on the receiving end of this imbalance, where we have been made “redundant”, “managed out of jobs”, to make way for cheaper, younger staff, and when that happens to people like us in our mid fifties plus, it is like being thrown out of an aircraft without a parachute.
In 2010, I was working in London, managing a small team in a finance role. I am well qualified for my job, with 30 years experience and all important specific knowledge of regulations required to head up teams in that sector. At the time, there was a Polish guy in his twenties working in the post room, who was studying for AAT. He was being paid £13K per year and was sharing a house with five other Polish guys in Stratford. He had no accountancy job experience and no knowledge of the regulations required to work in the sector. I was on £32K, not a huge amount for London, but the going rate for the job. You can probably tell where this is going. I was made “redundant” and he stepped into the position, and the real slap in the face, was that I had to train him up in less than a month. I was also responsible for salaries, so I was interested to see that his salary was going to be £21K per year.
Roughly the same thing happened to my wife. Her company got rid of the English workers older than 40, used foreign agencies and sourced employees mainly from Eastern Europe.
We nearly lost our house and although we are now working, we don’t know when we will retire or how we will survive in retirement.
All 28 member states of the EU have governments and politicians. Why do we need another level of overpaid, corrupt, self serving people telling us what to do, when they and the other 1% do not care about 99% of the population?

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker

Andy, I’ve been in a similar situation with redundancy, hanging onto the house, and worrying about retirement. But after Brexit I think it will get a lot worse for people, not better. There will be the neoliberal ‘bonfire of red tape’, i.e. our protections from the wolves, and a lot more. I don’t have time to write all my thoughts today, but regardless, I wish you and your missus the best, hope you hang in there and work it out. Emigrating to a cheaper place is also a potential option for some…the Eastern Europe that hammered you initially might possibly help you in your retirement years given the lower cost of living.

andyoldlabour
andyoldlabour

Hi Frank, I agree with your point about emigrating, but it seems like such a big upheaval. I live in a village, but it may as well be a satellite of London. There has been a steady increase in crime over the past decade, unbelievable stress on public services – my last GP appointment took 5 weeks, you never see police patrolling the streets.
I absolutely love Europe and have travelled extensively there. We had a chat last year with a vineyard owner in Champagne, and he couldn’t stand the EU or Macron.
I think politics all over Europe is very divisive, there is so much unrest.

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker

Andy, I agree change is tough, it would be an upheaval to move, but it sounds like you are living in an open prison at the moment and it may continue to worsen.

I left the UK a few years ago, for the sake of the kids and a new job, live in Europe. Eventually made redundant but stayed here rather than return to Brtiain. I wouldn’t go back to Britain to live, it’s broken and dangerous.

Language and integration can be a problem especially when the move is left to middle age and beyond. We have a few British and international friends, and locals too. It’s not quite like being in Britain with complete ease of communication, but one gets by. If you choose somewhere were there is more of British community it might be easier, such as Spain or Cyprus.

I’m not advocating anything for you, only you know your own circumstances etc, just sharing my experience with you and anyone else contemplating staying in Broken Britain; in my opinion it’s now beyond repair. Tying not to be dedfitist, but I canot see any politician or party pulling it back and improving the place, and it seems that civil unrest might occur because the country is completely split in two.

Good luck with whatever you decide, very best wishes, Frank.

mark
mark

The EU aren’t going to protect anybody from the wolves. They are the wolves.

mark
mark

If you think that’s bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
They’ll soon be letting Albania and Macedonia in.
After that? Ukraine? – With a standard of living lower than Egypt. They seem to think they’ve been promised membership.
Turkey?
Cameron said he was going to “pave the way from Ankara to Brussels.”
Maybe not for a while – Erdogan and Merkel aren’t exactly best of mates. But maybe there’ll be a bit of regime change and the Turks will be our best mates and bosom buddies in the EU. That’ll give the EU a border with Syria and Iraq. What could possibly go wrong?.
Who else? Georgia?
The EU wants to expand into the Mediterranean countries as well, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon. What a spiffing idea.

Moscow Exile
Moscow Exile

They closed the pit where I worked in 1985. Deepest seams in Europe were there. Only 4 foot thick, though.

Long story, but I ended up in Russia and married a Russian who has borne me 3 children. I have now lived in the “Evil Empire”, in what John McCain’s daughter recently called “The City of Satan”, for 25 years.

We have a country cottage, a dacha, situated some 50 miles southwest of Moscow. Near to it is the main railway line to Western Europe. Along this line roll day and night numerous coal trains consisting of 80-plus wagons that haul coal from the Kuzbas coalfield, Siberia.

Some of the coal goes to a Latvian port, whence it is shipped to the Humber, on the banks of which is situated Grimsby.

I last visited my home town in 1998, just to show my then Russian wife where I came from. She was not overly impressed.

Moscow Exile
Moscow Exile

That should have been above “my then newly wed Russian wife”.

She is still my Russian wife!

mark
mark

Sounds like a smart move. Good luck. Can’t be worse than over here.

UreKismet
UreKismet

Speaking as an outsider to the debate, itr appears to me that brexit has become a distraction that divides englanders rendering them incapable of seeing , much less solving the problems which confront just about every normal englander who doesn’t huddle down in the south east, and quite a few who do.

During my first Uni vacation I got a job in a huge (by Aotearoa standards) fish factory. That summer we all worked double, even treble (until the bosses calculated that without a four hour break every 18 hours we were entitled to double time and a half) 8 hour shifts. The boats many which had been brought down from englander fishing ports, including Grimsby, were set up as purse seiners a technique never seen in scale, in Aotearoa before.

All day every day (cos the trips were short rarely more than 4 hours passage each way) the boats came in with the results of scraping everything from the bottom to the top of the Hauraki gulf just a few weeks past snapper spawning. Thousands of tons of illegally undersized fishes were in the holds, nets, even covering the decks as they were hauled ashore, snap frozen and shipped overseas before anyone saw ’em.

This was 1970 and even at that stage some of the Grimsby boat owners sensed what was coming and had sold their boats to mobsters on the other side of the world.
It took years before the facts about the destructive nature of that fishing was acted upon and decades for stocks to recover.
By which time small independent fishers were pressured out of the game and the mobsters grabbed all the licenses they could then rented them out to international boats staffed with a mixture of south east asian slaves and extremely poorly paid eastern europeans.

Tangata whenua, the indigenous people of Aotearoa, who had always been promised that the licensing system wouldn’t affect them, now have to scratch, plead and beg to be allowed to take sufficient kaimoana for whanau, iwi or hapu gatherings, “because otherwise the fishery viability would be endangered”.

So despite not belonging to the EU, Aotearoa’s fishery got rooted too. What happened here, happened across the Pacific, worse for say Tonga or Samoa.

You can all look at the disaster that the neoliberal EU has been and see the effect it has had on Joe/Jo Englander, but do not make the error of imagining that without the EU, england’s fishery still wouldn’t have been rooted long with every other industry aside from dodgy book keeping.

The grasping arseholes would still have screwed over towns like Grimsby, they would just have found another way to do it is all.

What gets me about the whole brexit thing, and as I said I don’t have a dog in the fight, whatever is decided, I cannot see the basic issues changing, just the distractions, what gets me though, is the tiny amount of thought that has been given to the real reason why a ponce like Rees Mogg is so eager or why is that the financial sector only putting up a token resistance.

It is fairly obvious that staying in the EU means england having to close down all the tax ‘shelters’ in the not too distant future, no matter what government holds power in england. (btw my choice of england rather than the UK or Britain deceit is deliberate – failing to acknowledge that the ‘uk’ is an imperial project is another deliberate distraction). The city financial sector does well because the tax shelters do more for the world’s largest money laundry than the EU ever has. Leaving the EU will be a bump but nothing like losing the money washing industry.

About 90% of the funds in tax ‘shelters’ is held in London administered tax hideaways. Every corporation of any magnitude uses them (see https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/06/world/apple-taxes-jersey.html ) and even if Jeremy is allowed to win a GE, the biggest stoush he will have will be moving against tax rorts, and is likely the primary reason the business elite, the political class and the media have unified against him. If he succeeds in re-establishing equity for less than 100 million humans that is no big deal, nothing which cannot be righted by his successor, but once all the tax refuges have been wiped out it would be an almost impossible task to re-institute them again as all the governments in the world would feel the effect of increased revenue reducing once more.

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker

Exactly that, nothing will improve post Brexit. In fact, it’s the neoliberal who are pushing Brexit and they will get their one sided trade deal with the US that will destroy the UK.

mark
mark

Yes, all the neoliberals like Blair and Soros are real fanatical Brexiteers.

Gezzah Potts

“something has been lost that cannot be replaced, and the town is diminished because of it”. Another sad, poignant reminder of what the warped cancer of Neoliberalism has done to people – to fellow human beings. All for greed.

mark
mark

From the 50 years 1955-2005 real wealth, allowing for inflation, increased by a factor of 5 in real terms.
Someone at work once, looking at his pay slips, asked where all the money went.
The armed forces used to be a lot bigger than they are now. That’s not an argument for militarism, just noting that the state maintains much smaller forces than before. So it spends less there.
People used to get tax relief on mortgages.
Kids used to get free milk and free meals at school.
Students used to be educated for free and get a student grant.
The state used to pay for the care of old people.
Now all that and much more has gone out of the window.
So like the man asked, where has all the money gone?
By rights we should all be amazed by all the shiny new schools, hospitals and roads being built, or we should all be getting a huge tax rebate to blow as we wish.
When there were only 2 television channels, no CCTV, no internet, no ATMs, no mobile phones, there was full employment and there were council houses. And social mobility that has now disappeared.

andyoldlabour
andyoldlabour

The council houses have all been sold off for a huge profit. The divide between rich and poor has never been so large because of profiteering. The increase in zero hours contracts and temporary/short time work has thrown many into poverty and because of this, less money from ordinary workers is being collected in taxation, whilst the rich find ever more ingenious ways to avoid paying taxes.

mark
mark

Yes, I don’t know if you remember the 70s, TV programmes like Tomorrow’s World. People were only going to work 15 hours a week in the future and spend most of their time down the golf course.

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker

Mark, when you say “allowing for inflation”, the big problem with the official inflation figures is that they are extremely selective, that’s being kind, a big con perhaps more aptly.

It’s a similar situation to the official unemployment figures which completely hide the vast scale of under employment and unemployment hidden from the books.

Real inflation has been quietly eating away at our wealth, like a cancer growing stealthily. I don’t have time to research and post links where I’ve seen the estimate real inflation figures, but even what may seem as a small difference compounds over the years to be a huge gap.
And yes, our wealth is stolen too, vast amounts disappearing through tax dodging and worse.

mark
mark

Yes, I agree with that. Official figures aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. But so far as I can make out, that seems accurate, 5 – 1, 2005 – 1955. Admittedly in the 1950s the UK was still making a very slow recovery from the war. Rationing lasted till 1954.

mark
mark

Sad to see decent people like the author put their faith in Labour.
Vote Jezza and you get Watson, Thornberry, Benn, Bryant, Bradshaw, Ellman and the rest.
Shilling for Israel with the Board of Deputies and Shai Masot at the Mossad Office on speed dial.
Strutting around like little sawdust Caesars calling for the bombing of Syria, Iran, and how we have to go and sort out Johnny Russian and Johnny Chinaman.
Labour is the problem, not the solution. You might as well vote Tory.
Tweedledum and Tweedledummer.
Two cheeks of the same arse.

Wazdo
Wazdo

So votye Tory.

mark
mark

No, don’t vote for any of them.

ZigZagWanderer
ZigZagWanderer

Whilst I agree there are enormous problems within the LP , I would find it difficult to throw Corbyn under the bus just yet.
He’s a republican . When was the last time we had the possibility of Prime Minister with such views ?
He made one or two mistakes under the relentless antisemite hoax , but under such tremendous worldwide pressure I can forgive him that.

His biggest mistake so far was not going to the Trump dinner and pandering to the snowflake faction with that stupid speech.

He should have attended the dinner .. hardgripped Trump by the hand .. looked him in eye and said “welcome to the UK Mr. Trump”.

Big opportunity missed . He won’t be able to undo that spot of petulance.

mark
mark

I like him as well. If we lived in a democracy he might achieve something.

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker

Everything to do with Thatcher,
Nothing to do with the EU,
Lazy, inept, British politicians,
Always blame everyone else for their own failures.

Francis Lee
Francis Lee

”What is required in towns like Grimsby are all the elements of Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist programme of change, to replace a brutal neoliberal ideology which has patently failed the mass of people in society”

Agreed but … Such policies are not allowed in the neoliberal juggernaut of the EU. And the Labour party is, apart from the Liberal Democrats, the Remainer party. There’s the rub. If Labour’s dalliance with monetary union had required the sacrifice of exchange controls, and most protectionist trade measures, a third demand would have proved a deal-breaker: a de facto prohibition on the creation of new state-owned enterprises, other than in an emergency – like the bail-out of the Royal Bank of Scotland – and rules on how existing publicly owned entities were to be financed.

At the present time nationalisation would only be permissible only if the entity in question were treated on an arms-length commercial basis, and public investment would have to meet the same criteria as private investment. This would mean an ongoing commodification of much of the remaining public sector, much of which is already based upon strict commercial and competitive criteria. In addition any advantage derived from state assistance would have to be given back further down the road. This basically means that key failing companies must be rescued, its debts paid off and then returned to the private sector. Again RBS is a case in point.

The EU’s three neo-liberal policy triad consists of (1) free movement of capital, (2) free movement of commodities, i.e, services/goods and (3) free movement of labour. This means no capital controls, unrestricted movements of labour which will mean downward pressure on wages and working conditions, and a trading system which is not able to adjust its exchange rate in light of trade imbalances.

It should go without saying that an economy which is structured in this fashion is not only antithetical to socialism, it cannot even accommodate a traditional mixed economy; a mixed economy prints it own currency, has capital controls, allows controlled immigration and also allows state aid to industry and nationalization, together with a public investment bank.

Given past events in the EU it seems blatantly obvious that the choice is between a national economic policy outside the EU or a neo-liberal one inside the EU.

BTW – Latest GDP growth figures Y-O-Y for the big four are as follows:

UK = 1.8%
France = 1.2%
Germany = 0.7%
Italy = 0.1%

So what’s so great about the EU?

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker

So what’s so great about the EU?

A lot more than is great about the UK.

Unless you lived in Broken Britain in the 60’s and 70’s, in Grimsby or Yorkshire or the industrial North, it’s hard to fathom how inept British politicians were, and easy to blame everyone else.

Francis Lee
Francis Lee

Well there’s none so blind. Facts just bounce off them.

PORTUGAL

What are the wonderful growth promoting reforms in Portugal? The IMF/EU decided that for Portugal that there was going to be a reduction of 4 days in public holidays per year, a 50% reduction for overtime rates and an end to collective bargaining agreements. There would also be more work-time management, a removal on the restrictions to fire workers, a lowering of severance payments on losing one’s job, and forced arbitration on labour disputes. Bottom line? Workers must work harder and longer for less money and fewer rights and a higher risk of being sacked . Southern Europe must become a cheap labour centre for investment by the North.

LATVIA

”The ‘Baltic Tiger miracle’ has been as disastrous as that of Ireland. On 1 Januay 2014 Latvia’s government accepted the Eurozone’s ideology of fiscal and financial austerity despite opinion polls showing a majority of voters were opposed to joining … Latvia levied the heaviest taxes on labour. Employers must pay a 25% flat tax on wages plus a 24% social service tax, whilst wage-earners must pay another 11% tax. These three taxes add up to nearly a 60% flat tax before personal deductions. In addition to making labour high-cost and hence less competitive consumers must pay a high value-added sales tax of 21% raised sharply from 7% after the 2008 crisis. No western economy taxes wages and consumption so steeply …

Latvia’s heavy taxation on labour finds its counterpart in a mere 10% tax on dividends, interest and other returns to wealth, and the lowest property tax rate of any industrial economy. … the ‘Baltic Miracle’ featured a privatised oligarchy, dependence on foreign banks, and wage austerity.” (Michael Hudson – Killing the Host pp.286/7)

One could go on but what is the point. As Varoufakis once said during his fruitless negotiations with the Troika any arguments the Greek delegation put forward was like singing the Swedish national anthem.

The quasi-religious belief in the virtues and morality of the EU held by Remainers and believers is simply impenetrable

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker

The quasi-religious belief in the virtues and morality of the EU held by Remainers and believers is simply impenetrable

The quasi-religious belief in the virtues and morality of Brexit is simply impenetrable. The neoliberal onslaught will only get much worse, hope you enjoy that wonderful trade deal with Uncle Don and rejoice as the NHS falls apart when they have to pay full market price for their drugs. The Grimsbys in this New Neoliberal Order will fare much worse.

Marxists thinking that they can use Brexit as an opportunity to sneak in and take the reigns are utterly naive, I daresay deluded, especially as they vote for a City spiv to do their work for them. Through supporting Brexit you are aiding and abetting the destruction of the British economy, the taking down of welfare state, the break up of Europe which will result in massively more problems than Greece and Portugal.

As a brief aside, regarding those two countries, conflating the problems of imbalance in the Eurozone with the whole of the EU 28 is disingenuous to say the least. EU countries retaining their own currencies have done rather well, Poland being one example.

Francis Lee
Francis Lee

Oh, I see the PIIGS aren’t enough for you. They are part of the southern periphery forced to apply internal devaluation because A) the use the same currency as the core – Germany, Benelux and Scandinavia and cannot make currency adjustments, and B) because their cost structures and productivity levels cannot compete with the core.

Turning to the Eastern periphery. Did you know the the richest country in the ‘new’ Europe was the Czech Republic (now renamed) with per capita ppp at $20410.00 and the poorest country, Portugal’s per capita ppp is $23136.00. As for Poland – this is a country which for geopolitical reasons 100 billion euros in subsidies from the EU between 2007-2013, and is due to receive a 106 billion more from 2014 to 2020. Poland was singled out in the 1990s as a country in which the neoliberal agenda had to succeed.

BTW. Poland’s pesent per capita GDP is $15431.00. A real economic miracle this. I didn’t make it up check out the source below.

(Source: Countryeconomics.com)

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker

Francis, Poland is a relative economic miracle compared to where it was before the Berlin wall came down. I know the place well, it’s been transformed.

I’ve always said that the EU is far from perfect, and the Euro currency zone is completely inappropriate for southern Europe. However, the alternative to the EU is far worse, a divided and conquered neoliberal sweatshop across the European continent, all under the control of NATO.

We can see that NATO is morphing from being just a military alliance to becoming a political and economic one too, controlled from Washngton, the Brussels democratic and “bothersome” filter removed completely; that’s the plan, I’m sure of it.

mark
mark

Yep, the streets of the EU are paved with gold. Ask the Greeks. Ask the Gilets Jaunes. The EU is the Euro.

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker

Mark, EU vs Euro currency zone. Greece and France are in the Euro currency zone, that’s where significant problems lay. Keep your own currency and your economy can, if properly managed, rip along at a good pace, earning taxes and paying for the welfare state keeping it financially sustainable.

mark
mark

The population of Latvia has fallen from 2.7 million to 1.95 million.
Lithuania 3.7 million to 2.7 million.
Ireland was told to privatise water. Nobody in Ireland wanted to. But they got their marching orders from Brussels.
Brussels didn’t like some of the Cabinet ministers in the Madrid government. So it ordered Madrid to sack them and put people they liked in their place.
Brussels didn’t like the Italian voters’ choice of government. So it just replaced the Italian government with its own officials, who were parachuted in as colonial governors.
I won’t mention Greece.
I could go on……and on……and on……and on.

mark
mark

Any economic or social programme of the kind envisaged would just be stomped on by our EU masters.
Ask Greece.
Ask Italy.
Ask Spain.
Ask Ireland.

Gezzah Potts

Exactly correct. Was thinking of Syriza and what happened in Greece as I read the article.

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker

Ask Greece.
Ask Italy.
Ask Spain.
Ask Ireland.

No need to ask, I can tell you: they are all in the Euro currency zone. At least two of them should never have joined in the first place, but I’d argue that all four should now not be in it.

That said, the well documented major issues of the Euro zone do not translate into the same problems in those EU countries which have retained their own currencies. Poland and others have done very well.

In simple terms, the way I see it, joining the EU is a joining a common partnership of nations who are willing to cooperate on key issues, retaining your sovereignty and pooling some democratic decisions with the other like-minded nations in the EU Parliament. However, joining the Euro currency zone is giving up your sovereignty completely, you have no significant freedoms to decide anything remaining, you have become a newly acquired State of which the financial capital is Frankfurt.

In other words, there is a huge difference between these two choices, yet in the UK and English media in general, we never really hear about these key differences and most voters simply don’t know, and accept the neoliberal claptrap propaganda and vote for the City spiv Farage or Johnson the Court Jester.

mark
mark

Maybe we should stay in the EU as they go hell for leather for a centralised budget and taxation, EU army and EU superstate. No need for Westminster any more. We could demolish it and build a multi storey car park. Save the £7 billion cost of doing it up.

Rhisiart Gwilym
Rhisiart Gwilym

What’s so great about growth?

DAvid
DAvid

Interesting argument, well put. Thanks.

m1810
m1810

Absolutely agree that a mixed economy provides the greater benefits to the largest amount of citizens than the current neo-liberal policies which are destroying communities and society in general. Should never have gone down the american model road in the first place