We’re still going through the Industrial Revolution…Backwards!


Brief background…

Before the 1960s the Industrial Revolution was thought of as a ‘take-off’ of technological innovation and development.  Nowadays, sources have shown that it began as far back as the 16th century with the discovery of the Americas and many other previously unexplored areas.  European colonists made money from production but had no specialised manufacturing skills themselves.  Instead they bought slaves in order to do the work for them.  The plantation slaves owned by the Beckford family (fortune came from sugar plantations and slaves) for instance were expected to grow their own food and provide for themselves which meant that many went hungry.  We all know that slavery was regularly used in most industries especially in crop cultivation in the colonies, lets not make a fuss or be squeamish about it.  The fertile lands of the Caribbean and North America were divided up and turned into plantations which were worked by slaves (if they survived the journey) which differed in price depending on age, gender, physical fitness and even country of origin, and were sold to European slave merchants by other African’s (in many areas crimes were punished either by death or slavery) in exchange for firearms, gunpowder and other British made goods which would have adjusted the balance of power between the various kingdoms.

To give due fairness, the Transport and Navigation laws (repealed in 1849) meant those colonists were not only forbidden from processing their cash crops beyond certain stages, but they were only allowed to trade with Britain which was another root cause of the American war of Independence.  Once the crops reached British shores, the processing was completed which added extra value to the end product before being re-exported back to the colonies at a higher price.  Various historians have their opinions on the significance of slavery to Transatlantic trade and the British economy.  Joseph Inikori, for instance justified the use of slavery by claiming that the economy relied upon the export markets it created and that without colonial commerce, industrial growth in Britain would have stagnated (cart before the horse!) leading to a lack of technological innovation and capital would have flowed into finance and commerce.  Patrick O’Brien and Stan Engerman also place a high significance on slavery.

“the significance of sea power, imperial connections, slavery, and mercantilist regulation for the sale of British manufactures overseas’ (O’Brien & Engerman, 1991, p. 186)

Britain and the US were not the first to abolish slavery, that was Denmark which banned the trade in to the Danish West Indies in 1792, allowing a ten year adjustment period, and the French Revolution outlawed it completely.  In Britain the trade continued into the early 19th century.  Abolition was strongly resisted by planters, agents and merchants alike who claimed they could not function without the revenues which were accrued from slaves and slavery.  It was also resisted for religious reasons but mostly their excuses ranged from the specious claims that it would damage Britain’s interests, political and economic, and that it would be advantageous to France (During the revolution, the French had denied British ships access to most European markets until during the 1790s until 1815).  It was a common view that Britain’s strength and economic pre-eminence had been built on slavery, that the slaves in the Caribbean were better off than the poor in Britain and even the Africans had not been enslaved.  Some even condemned the anti-slavery movement for taking interest away from ‘British’ workers’ issues and their urgent issues to gain political and civil rights.  The Bible had been used as an excuse to treat black people as inferior, particularly the parts written by St Augustine.  Thankfully the measure was enacted in 1807 regardless of corporate, class and religious objections.  Since then commerce has done everything it can to do as little as it can in rewarding the people who made them so rich…their workforce.

Modern Contrast…

Lets face it.  The 21st century economy in UK, Europe and the US in one hell of a mess. In the US candidates for political office attempt to rewrite history to suit their anti-anyone-but-them-and-theirs agendas and reshape the society to make the haves richer and force the have-nots into the political pavement’s with their well-heeled boots.  They claim ‘Christian’ justification, and they have this nasty habit of condemning everything which shows even an iota of compassion for the needy as ‘socialism’ (Thanks MacCarthy, you prat!) for the hateful vitriol with which they compose their speeches as their pockets and bank-balances are lined by narrow interest groups.  There are some genuinely good ones trying to swim against the tide but currently they are drowning in a sea of right-wing, clap-trap.

The UK are not doing much better. We’ve got our PM (a man who has never had to go without anything) claiming we are a Christian country and claiming to be bringing back ‘traditional Christian values’, while ripping the social safety net from under the feet of the most needy including the severely disabled and terminally ill.  In 2010, the first thing the coalition did was to raise the cap on tuition fees meaning even the shadiest of community colleges can charge up to and including £9k per year (some already are) and revoking Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), placing further education out of the reach of most people.  If that wasn’t bad enough they have tripled the cost of the Open University courses meaning that someone beginning a course this year will pay up to £2.5k for a single 60 credit module (nearly the price of a year of full-time university, prior to the increase).  I will be able to retain my pricing structure for my history degree if I continue to take modules one after the other.

Add to this Loony-Lansley’s (Minister for Health) plans to begin privatising the NHS by turning GPs into bloody accountants and out source more to private companies.  Lansley is a berk.  He hasn’t looked at the economic climate and it’s causes were and seen that the private sector is NOT necessarily better at doing things.  The private sector is only interested in profit.  Most of it are only interested in customer satisfaction insofar as dissatisfied customers, through the internet can compare notes and unhappy consumers can warn others.  He has done what George Osbourne did; he took an idea and ran with it.  The NHS is a public service, not a business.  IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE MAKING A PROFIT. Lansely placed policy and profit in front of the purpose of the service.  His plans will mean more paperwork and bureaucracy not less.  It will mean paying giving private companies leave to charge what they want for the services farmed out to them.  It spells disaster but Lansley is adamant that this vital public service needs ‘competition.  He is trying to continue what Thatcher started.

 

From before 2010  the ‘deficit’ has been used to justify cuts in public spending on infrastructure on everything from CTFs to the police and education (in favour of free-schools) while taxes increase along with the cost of living but the lack of commercial demand has come from atmosphere of low job-security, thousands on minimum wage or less, and high and rising unemployment among school leavers and those who lost their jobs in the first waves of recession.  Meanwhile right-wing government wants to abolish certain worker’s rights to allow employers to sack people more easily as well as do away with Human Rights Act (for ALL of us)  in order to deport one man who has already been imprisoned for 6 years without a trial and without having committed a crime in this country (has not been tried in his country of residence).  The deficit is a pretext.  A shoddy excuse. It’s working because most people don’t understand the history of banking.  This country has always been in debt!

What we have is a cabinet full of rich boys, and unelected bishops who (like the merchants, landowners and aristos of the 18th century) are trying to make as much money as they can while making as little contribution as they can and claw back some revenue from the people who are least able to pay.  What they mean by We’re all in this together’ is actually ‘You’re on your own and its everyman for himself from now on‘. By cutting services and benefits they force ill and disabled people who have already had to apply and go through testing to qualify for disability living allowance to embark on lengthy complex, stressful and expensive appeals campaigns, only to have them cut again months later.  What we have is a government who, rather than invest in building, expanding and reforming the schools we have, will waste tax-payer’s money setting up a system where the local authority have no input yet they are still tax-subsidised. At the same time good teachers are rewarded with their ever improving results in exams with sneers and jeers about how exams are getting easier.   While we blindly sit by and let the damn Tories engineer the demise of state funded education, adding yet another gate of opportunity for the private sector to take over (and cods it up the way the bank has been) the few services left to sell.  The utilities have gone, public transport and the postal service have gone, and the NHS is on the way should Loony-Lansley get his wish.  What’s next, the police in corpoRAT hands  (actually, I love rats, they’re affectionate,intelligent and compassionate to their colony, unlike bloody board executives)? The fire service? Ambulances on taxi meters?  We need to get this lot out before they do more damage.

Productivity…

The last 30 years has seen our heavy industry replaced by ‘services ‘ or merely disappeared overseas where cheap labour is freely available but our services are no longer in demand or affordable to the rest of Europe and without anything real to export, we are sinking.  We can no longer afford to live because our imports and borrowing, exceed our borrowing.  So how do we recover?  Are we making sure the super-rich are paying their share? NOPE.  Are we insisting the banks pay the tax-payers back before awarding themselves massive bonuses (try using that excuse when you miss a mortgage payment)? NOPE!  Do we withdraw from two expensive  wars we should never have been a part of anyway?  NOPE.  

Over the last 30 years our physical productivity has diminished from decreased manufacturing and a shift toward financial services and leisure.  This has had a cyclical effect on manufacturing and led to further unemployment and low job-security.  Unless you count further privatisation of our public services and sale to outside interests which while remaining tax-subsidised, have been split into separate ‘companies’ and allowed to charge what they like to their ‘customers’ we have nothing to sell.  If a company is in any way tax-subsidised it belongs (if only in part) to the tax-payer.  If they are claiming private trading rights (some cannot as they sell utilities) then they must go without tax-subsidies and concessions.  They cannot have it both ways.  Any suggestion customer choice in these instances is an illusion.  These companies should be re-nationalised and brought to heel.  We also need to re-build our manufacturing base and get people into work.  Right now, for every job on the market, there are 15 applicants and that doesn’t differentiate between those seeking a career change and those trying to find a way out of despondency.  Renewal of manufacture would solve that.

The shift from manufacture to commerce and financial services (and resulting recession ‘manufactured’ by the Tories under Thatcher in the 80s and nineties). We have been investing in technological development and sales but not in it’s production and we are losing skill set because manufacture is being shipped overseas for the sake of a cheap, compliant and desperate workforce.  Employers, greedy for profit at any cost, took advantage of low-paid labour pool in Asia and other areas without those pesky worker’s rights and western standards of the right way to treat people like, you know not laying people off by the thousands to protect your bottom lines because of rumours of a recession (I was one who lost my job in 2008).  When people are worried for their jobs, they don’t splash out on luxury services and items.  Threats to jobs created an obvious lack of demand and profit motivated lay-offs THUS CAUSING SAID RECESSION.   And FYI it wasn’t Labour who told these multi-nationals to take people’s job’s away out of panic.

Tabloid ‘Fascist Hack-Rag’ press is mostly run by that media-nazi, Murdoch spreading rumours of recession and major economic slump, while they attempt to morally crucify the ‘nanny-state’ and pump-out their nationalist and isolationist crap,  at the same time while behind the scenes they’re hacking phones and giving kick-backs to bent coppers so they can sell more copies of their frivolous gossip-reams and make more money.

 Bankers loaned money to people who they knew couldn’t pay it back (fuck ‘personal responsibility’ on this one because the banks had the option to say ‘no’) but profit on the interest for a little while is better than nothing and then when they default, the bank gets the property too and can sell it on (yes, I do know how it works which is why I will never buy a home from a ‘repossessed homes’ auction. Newsflash, Tory lovers! Your old boys in the city wanted deregulation of the finance ‘industry, and got it’! Like what they did with it?

Housing, Mortgages and Lending.

The UK population, over the last 30 years has been encouraged to perceive houses as an investment to be profited from rather than a home and buy-to-let mortgages from people looking to make an income from being a property holder.  Stamp duty, so even the top-knobs claim a slice of every house purchased Tory idea and DAMN you Blair and Brown for not repealing it).  This has led to a huge over valuation of property by estate agents in order to boost their own commissions, and artificial inflation of the property market due to lack of property available to buy (esp to first time buyers).

Shortage of social housing for low-paid (not low skilled; pay has no bearing at all on how well a person can do a job) workers coupled with the sale of council houses in the Tory led ‘right to buy’ scheme has caused a critical shortage of social and affordable housing has and allowed private landlords to cash in on it and charge more to councils than they would ever get from a private tenant. Have you seen some of the slums that people are made to live in because they can’t earn enough to live anywhere else? It’s not the people on housing benefit that are ripping of the tax-payers (that includes job-seekers and housing benefit claimants because tax is deducted from JSA and you have to be working to get HB).

Conclusion:

The short answer?  Money and the obsessive compulsion by some to get more than anyone else and bugger the world and the consequences!  I’m not going into the whole ‘property is theft’ bollocks because I don’t for one moment believe that. We do have the right to own our own homes etc, but at ANY cost?  It does make the world go round if trades are fair and honest.  It is true there is no such thing as pure altruism because we could not have survived as a species if there was but lets not confuse ‘survival instinct’ with ‘selfish greed’ shall we.  While it’s probably nice, we don’t need to earn enough to buy (for instance) a mansion, swimming pool, stable of cars/horses etc, and a wardrobe full of flash clothes but well-done to anyone who has managed to that honestly and without screwing people over…can you now start paying your fair share of taxes please?

Commercial Corporate interests desperate to maintain a stranglehold on their workforce and the freedom (because the unions failed to just back down and go away, I’m pleased to say) to pay them a in a month a fraction of the eventual sale price of a single item, and in the aim of making vast profits, have helped to cripple the economy they claim to hold so dear.  They couldn’t get slaves to do it so they went for the next best option with Asian factories who can hire ten Chinese people for what it would cost to hire one person to do the job in the west.  I wonder what the slaves in those factories would do if they realised they were being robbed  banks aided and capitulated in this brutal betrayal of human kind by their own profligate actions. The estate agents (along with solicitors who also take a cut), the ambulance chasers and the 2 bob ‘umbrella financial advisors’ are just as guilty.  None of these people actually ‘produce’ anything valuable to society.  They ‘make’ money from more money.

We are guilty too.  Do you know why?  We are, for the most part, guilty of lazy and unthinking inattentiveness to recorded history and not thinking critically about where the economic climate was going and NEED TO WAKE UP.  We bought the flashy gadgets made overseas they’re not made here etc without thinking about where that money was really going (up usually). We had the ginger-bread cottage of pre-approved credit (spiked with a Rohypnol and Ritalin cocktail of tacky intelligence sucking talk-shows and reality TV) shoved under our noses so we would stare at the ceiling and think of England while the big-boys in the board rooms raped not only the UK economy but that of the US and most of Europe too for every penny they could get and by fair means or foul (mostly foul), and western population swallowed it whole.

Sources

  • O’Brien, P. K. and Engerman, S. L. (1991) ‘Exports and the growth of the British Economy from the Glorious Revolution to the Peace of Amiens’ in Solow, B. L. (ed.) ‘Slavery and the Rise of the Atlantic System’ Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Slave trade: a root of contemporary African Crisis‘ by Tunde Obadina on ‘Africa Economic Analysis‘ (2000), http://www.afbis.com/analysis/slave.htm, accessed 14/2/2012.
  • Waites, B. and Goodrich, A (2008) ‘Block 4 – Slavery and Freedom’ of  The OU’s ‘A200 Exploring History: Medieval to Modern 1400 to 1900‘, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
  • Gibbons, R (ed.) ‘Anthology of Primary Sources’, The Open University in conjunction with The Manchester University Press, New York, US
  • Frost, A (2008) ‘Big Spenders: The Beckford’s and Slavery‘ for The BBC History Website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/wiltshire/content/articles/2007/03/06/abolition_fonthill_abbey_feature.shtml (accessed 14/2/2012
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