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Ironically, the only people on the internet now defending forcing people to sleep under a bridge are trolls.
June 5, 2012 4:40 AM   Subscribe

In the midst of the Jubilee celebrations, the Guardian reported that coachloads of long-term unemployed jobseekers were bussed in to steward the Queen's river pageant without pay as part of the UK government's controversial new Work Programme. Jobseekers were made to sleep under London Bridge and given “no access to toilets for 24 hours, and were taken to a swampy campsite outside London after working a 14-hour shift”.

Under the promise of paid work, jobseekers turned up at a coach Saturday night where they were told the would not in fact be paid "and that if they did not accept it they would not be considered for well-paid work at the Olympics". Elsewhere, paid staff were told the would no longer be needed. Turning down work could also affect jobseekers' benefits.

According to the Greater London Authority, £1.5m was allocated for River Pageant stewarding, so where did it go?
posted by axon (235 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite

 
Please be gentle, this is my first posting on mefi. The title was bastardised from this tweet.
posted by axon at 4:41 AM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sounds pretty true to the concept of royalty to me.
posted by DU at 4:42 AM on June 5, 2012 [22 favorites]


No amount of money can ever make up for the privilege of being a part of the glory of the British Empire.
posted by Renoroc at 4:54 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


The Aristocrats!
posted by crayz at 4:55 AM on June 5, 2012 [36 favorites]


This is sizing-up to be such a lovely decade...
posted by Thorzdad at 4:56 AM on June 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


Classic move. Were they also asked to light Cameron's cigars with £ 50 notes?

Good first post.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:56 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks, Ironmouth. I did wait a good decade before working up the courage to post.

Apparently, this is the original blog post that broke the story.
posted by axon at 4:59 AM on June 5, 2012




Sounds pretty true to the concept of royalty to me.
Yep, nothing upholds the feudal tradition of monarchy like serf labour. Here's hoping this starts a fight-back against workfare.
posted by Abiezer at 5:01 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, that certainly explains why the US news were "omg the queen omg diamond jubilee"*. It's a preview of things to come.

*US media's fascination with the British royal family pretty much baffles me. Didn't Americans *revolt* against that malarkey?
posted by lineofsight at 5:01 AM on June 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


"Grandiose, naughty and surreal. And somewhere deep in London"
posted by evil_esto at 5:05 AM on June 5, 2012


Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:07 AM on June 5, 2012 [38 favorites]


Saorsa airson Alba!
posted by jeffburdges at 5:07 AM on June 5, 2012


Large Man with Dead Body: Who's that then?
The Dead Collector: I dunno, must be a queen.
Large Man with Dead Body: Why?
The Dead Collector: She hasn't got shit all over her.
posted by crunchland at 5:10 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Evil Esto's link to Heston's Victorian Feast.
posted by mecran01 at 5:10 AM on June 5, 2012


Yet strangely enough, every time I've tried to engage friends and co-workers about the evils or workfare, the attitude has universally been: *shrug* good, they should work for their benefit. Therefore, I give up and continue to hold humanity in very low esteem.
posted by Summer at 5:12 AM on June 5, 2012 [18 favorites]


To be fair, 'not having access to a toilet' doesn't seem to inhibit many people in London these days.
posted by Flashman at 5:13 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


When Adam delve and Eve span, who then was steward of a royal pageant on £2.80 an hour?
posted by Jehan at 5:20 AM on June 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


If you want a vision of the future, imagine an unemployed welfare recipient sleeping under a bridge then standing in the rain wearing a plastic see-through poncho and a high-visibility jacket while the Queen sails past on a barge and Prince Philip has a bladder infection - forever.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:22 AM on June 5, 2012 [71 favorites]


UK workfare previously on the blue.

I'm guessing the same people were probably forced to work 14-hour shifts without toilet breaks whilst happy middle-class people ran the London Marathon, too.

Focusing solely on the dissonance between royalty and forced labour might easy, but the originators of this process are a government without mandate, the beneficiaries are lobbyists and kleptoparasitic subcontractors, and as Summer says the actual fault lies (for once) not with HM but with the vast majority of the population who don't see people without money as people.

A plague on all our houses.
posted by cromagnon at 5:26 AM on June 5, 2012 [46 favorites]


What really gets to me (apart from people being made to work for nothing under duress) is the notion, so common among employers now, that it is wholly the responsibility of workers and the state to fund training. In the mind of a modern employer, schools and universities should not turn out people with a variety of skills that enable them to compete for a wide range of skilled jobs in which sufficient and effective training will be supplied. Rather, the ideal product of the education system will be a malleable blob whose "on the job" training will be highly cost-efficient to the employer, on account of it being funded by state benefits.

I'm all for appropriate state support of both workers and employers, but the support given to workers should actually be in their interests, not a disguised subsidy to employers. This worship of employers as divine "job creators" who must be continually appeased by sacrifice has gotten pretty ridiculous.
posted by howfar at 5:27 AM on June 5, 2012 [84 favorites]



What really gets to me (apart from people being made to work for nothing under duress) is the notion, so common among employers now, that it is wholly the responsibility of workers and the state to fund training.


Well, it is. That's why we have shop classes in high school.

Or, uh, do we still have them?
posted by ocschwar at 5:31 AM on June 5, 2012


Tell me again how high unemployment is a problem. It's obviously a solution.
posted by Legomancer at 5:31 AM on June 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


I wonder if Close Protection UK will secure the contract for the London Riots this August?
posted by Elmore at 5:32 AM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is pretty horrifying. I'm also sad to say that it adds another little bit of evidence to the growing heap of it in favour of those who put forward a class-based model of society, in which the rich are constantly attempting to exploit everyone below them and arrange the government to serve their interests.

There is an old saying that someone who is a conservative at 19 has no heart; if they are a conservative at 29, they have no brain. (Sometimes this is attributed to Winston Churchill). The older I get, the more I think: someone who is not a Marxist at 29, at least in their understanding of how the world actually works, has not been paying attention. I don't want to believe that this is true: it just keeps seeming like the best explanation.

It is also fair to point out, as Cromagnon does above, that this really is a government without a mandate. They barely squeaked into office with a cobbled together coalition - and yet (much like the Bush administration's first term), give the modern right an inch and, it seems, they will take a mile. And then give it to a private contractor.

I wonder when ordinary people will learn not to give them that inch?
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:33 AM on June 5, 2012 [40 favorites]


I think people are over-reacting. After all, impressment is one of the things that made this nation Great.
posted by tigrefacile at 5:34 AM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is there any better way to commemorate the monarchy besides than serf labour though? I doubt the French are interested in fighting a little battle for old times sake.

I wish the French had painted guillotine graffiti on some eurostars and ferries. J'aime que les Français sont fiers d'avoir tué leur famille royale (Not sure if French uses "take pride in" like English though).
posted by jeffburdges at 5:34 AM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Aside from the Work Programme being of questionable benefit to those placed on it, there is also the fear that they are displacing actual paid jobs, and so is an overall detriment to the labour market. Anecdotally:

Also: I know of paid staff originally pencilled in to steward the Pageant who were told they were no longer needed a few days beforehand.
- Jon (@MyCrippledEagle)
posted by wilko at 5:37 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]




I was talking with a fellow about this last night, at a Jubilee house party. He is in financial services and from Brasil, although he has spent ample time in both the US and the UK. I will paraphrase his thoughts here, as they seem specifically relevant.
The problem with these welfare states is the potential for abuse. You're seeing it everywhere. Greece, Italy, France, the UK. Do you remember that story from business school, about the daycare? It's a lot like that.
The story from business school, about the daycare, is from Freakonomics I believe. Basically, a daycare had a set of chronically-late pick-ups after hours. They imposed a penalty 'fine' of $10ish for parents who came after 18:00. Initially, there was a drop in late pick-ups, and then a subsequent explosion in late pick-ups. Further, the 'lateness' increased substantially. Reason being that what was a 'fine' became a 'fee'; in essence the $10ish amount became the fee parents paid of a type of 'extended hours' to the daycare. Previously, at least they had an emotional reaction – parents felt bad for violating the hours – whereas after paying the fee, they had clean consciences. Thus, there was no longer 'lateness', there were two sets of fees. The standard fees and the 'extended hours' fees. In essence, the 'fine' was too low to change behaviour. I recall the point being made that if the fee was $100, there would have been a much different result.
The difference with the parents in that case was paying the ten bucks allowed them, basically, to act however they wanted. They could control the lives of the daycare workers in exchange for a paltry sum. If you recall, many of the parents actually became much later, from 630 or 7 to, like, 9 or 10.

It's the same thing with these social democracies and their welfare states. At least in the US, more things are priced. You may not like the price, but at least it's there. In the UK, what they've done is said essentially 'if you're on welfare, you're a slave'. They put onerous conditions attached to state aid of most types, and they essentially have a subjugated workforce. Then the body politic doesn't really care, because they're paying high taxes, partially in support of the welfare state. So then, nobody really cares when people speak out about the Job Centre or how welfare is being administered, because in their mind, these people are getting their money – free money – so what do they really have to complain about?

It's exactly like the daycare, Nickrussell. When the taxpayers in Europe pay their tax, they lose the emotional responsibility to the underclasses. They've paid, and that's it. At least in the US, people are honest about things. The government's not going to take care of you. You have to take care of yourself. When bad things happen and you need help, the community needs to take care of you, otherwise, you will become homeless and potentially ill. There is a moral obligation to take care of other people. Not everywhere, not everybody, but in general, the lack of a welfare state in the US means that people generally take better care of each other.

In the UK, for example, when you sign up for assistance, you lose all control over what that assistance is. The government promises that you will have assistance, but not of any specific quality levels. When the government gives you a job, they can change the wages of that job, it's specification, it's location, and there's nothing you can do about it. At least with a company, you have a binding contract in terms of specific conditions. Not with the welfare state.

It's a perverse incentive structure. In some cases, the welfare states are great. They've really been good for everyone. But with the new normal, they're cutting corners wherever they can and a lot of people who depend on the welfare state are finding it to be a bargain with the devil. And the rest of the taxpayers have no moral obligation to change things or even care; they've done their part. The outlook for people on welfare is not good in Europe, for the taxpayers will simply ask that they do more and more for less and less; and what can the people on welfare say? It is indeed a kind of slavery, like the US prison population.

In the US, since there is a greater moral agenda, when someone violates the moral code, they go to jail. In your country, nobody cares much what happens to somebody once they go to jail, for the prisoner signed up for it, in essence. Jail conditions bad? Well, we're paying for you to learn your lesson, so sit and learn it. They're making you work for no pay? Well, you should have thought about that.

That's what the European welfare state is in danger of becoming. There's too many people out of proper work and going on state support. The budgets will shrink as the welfare state expands, because there's fewer taxpayers, yeah? More people, smaller budget. What happens to the aid each person receives, it shrinks. They will be doing more dictated work for less money. If the money they do receive simply goes to subsidised housing and food programmes, what are you left with? Slaves, of a sort, yeah?
posted by nickrussell at 5:40 AM on June 5, 2012 [25 favorites]


At least in the US, people are honest about things. The government's not going to take care of you. You have to take care of yourself. When bad things happen and you need help, the community needs to take care of you, otherwise, you will become homeless and potentially ill. There is a moral obligation to take care of other people. Not everywhere, not everybody, but in general, the lack of a welfare state in the US means that people generally take better care of each other.

and

In the US, since there is a greater moral agenda, when someone violates the moral code, they go to jail.

These two statements tell me that your friend has some severe misconceptions about how things work here, nickrussel. Really severe misconceptions.
posted by rtha at 5:47 AM on June 5, 2012 [84 favorites]


Here are some more details from the original blog post that broke the story:
At 2300 Saturday 2nd of June 2012, a coachload of Tired, untrained and ill equipped people left Bristol by coach for London and the Queens Jubilee.

At around 0240 they were dropped off by the side of a road with their Baggage and Tents and left stood for more than an hour along with 80 other people.

Having Had no sleep at 0415 these people were told that at 0500 they would be starting a 16 hour shift.

...snip...

All those people have been promised Proper paid work at the Olympic Games with pay of up to £9000 for doing it.
How much would you like to bet that those Olympic stewarding jobs will also turn out to be unpaid or non-existent?
At 0900 Sunday morning they had been given a paper bag with a Sandwich, Muffin and packet of crisps in and told ” dont eat that now its your lunch”. A paper bag, in heavy rain, 3 hours before lunchtime with no way of keeping it dry.
One of them had been refused use of toilet facilities and hadnt been able to P for almost 24 hours, she had been forced to change into ” uniform” for the event in the open as there were no changing facilities with other male staff refusing to give her privacy, ” I had to change next to a van in public and a bloody red bus stopped almost right in front of me”.
This seems to contradict CPuk's claim that the money had been spent on training, potentially putting attendees at risk:
It is a shame however that contrary to Close Protection uk statement that training had been completed, I know that some staff had not yet been trained in First Aid ( a requirement) or taught how to safely restrain people without causing injury ( a requirement).
posted by axon at 5:51 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not everywhere, not everybody, but in general, the lack of a welfare state in the US means that people generally take better care of each other

A supportive hug, a strong work ethic and no cash is a great replacement for, say, free chemotherapy. Glad we got that sorted.
posted by cromagnon at 5:54 AM on June 5, 2012 [49 favorites]


These two statements tell me that your friend has some severe misconceptions about how things work here, nickrussel. Really severe misconceptions.

It's not really the point of the post, is it. It's continuously funny how fast Americans bristle about any opinion of the place, as if native people presently inside America have the sole ability to comment on America.

I'm an American, I quite agree with him, at least in general spirit. Similar to the fact that he and I see the UK in a different way from the natives, once you're outside the US, it looks very different. What you say are misconceptions could also be attributed to perspective bias, yeah? There's really no answer.

Happy to continue via email if you desire; let's not derail the 'problems of British welfare' into 'yet another conversation about America'.

posted by nickrussell at 5:56 AM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Do you also agree with this?
At least with a company, you have a binding contract in terms of specific conditions.

If he's still talking about the US, he couldn't be more wrong, unless "you" are a contractor, and even then, the company can just end the contract if you don't agree to changed conditions.

This is not a matter of "bristling at any opinion of the place;" it's a matter of inaccurate assertions of fact.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:04 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Excellent post, axon. Fucking excellent first post. Thanks!
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 6:05 AM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'd agree with his underlying premiss that everyone should clearly benefit form social services though, rtha. We should make a subsidized single payer healthcare available for all citizens, not only the poor, for example. In France, healthcare is largely implemented by deforming prices with subsidies across the board, often providers charge only the subsidy, but basically all payers benefit. In England, the NHS has been under constant attack mostly because their alternate private healthcare system doesn't benefit directly from the NHS. I'd expect that a universal basic income would be more resistant to political pressures as well.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:05 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, "let's not derail into another discussion about America" is kind of odd, coming from the guy who started the derail.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:07 AM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Happy to continue via email if you desire; let's not derail the 'problems of British welfare' into 'yet another conversation about America'.

Running around getting ready to go vote and go to work, but I'll likely memail you when I get to work, if the day doesn't metaphorically blow up. Cheers!

posted by rtha at 6:09 AM on June 5, 2012


Your Brazilian friend is talking out of his hole though, nickrussell, as he seems entirely ignorant of the fluctuating history of welfare provision and attendant rights in the UK as the balance of political forces shifted down the years. There was a reason why at one time you could introduce a universal payment like child benefit and then later we have this. He's talking as if this is how is has always been. It's been as bad or worse and it's been better.
He also makes a false distinction between people in receipt of benefits and tax-payers - a large number of people below retirement age who receive benefits in the UK are also in work and paying tax (might even be the majority, can't recall the figures off the top of my head). That's setting aside other welfare state services such as healthcare which are essentially free to all at point of access and of course people who have periods of unemployment but work and taxes before and after. I'd argue that it's been part of a political agenda in recent years to establish that distinction, as against a 'there but for the grace of God' attitude that prevailed at other times. That worked to an extent in the boom years when we did have a bevy of financial adviser types who thought it would never be them, but may not have the same currency for generations facing worse economic circumstances than their parents.
posted by Abiezer at 6:09 AM on June 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


nickrussell, I have to disagree with your Brazilian friend. When welfare was organized locally in England poor people were subjected to far worse tyranny and capriciousness than any national system. Rich people constantly balked at the poor rates despite being in reasonable contact with the poor people that they benefited. Many localities simply deported any poor person not born there, and some even sought to organize deportation from England itself.
posted by Jehan at 6:10 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pretty standard actions for royalty. Here in Japan, when the imperial family came to view a museum exhibit in Ueno Park (large park in Tokyo, home to most of the museums and a very, very large homeless community), the homeless were made to tear down their makeshift homes (which can be quite elaborate in Japan) and wait in a corner of the park for the entirety of the imperial visit, lest the emporer accidentally see a homeless person.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:11 AM on June 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


"Peasants? I love my peasants!"

There is a moral obligation to take care of other people. Not everywhere, not everybody, but in general, the lack of a welfare state in the US means that people generally take better care of each other.

In this formulation, "the moral obligation to take care of other people" (whether in reference to the US, or the UK, or anywhere else) always seems to end just before it gets to a state empowered to provide such care.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:12 AM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure I understand what all the big fuss is about. I'd also be interested to find a media source other than the Guardian that is reporting this story (not that I dispute what the Guardian has reported).

Being outdoors in the wet and cold for 14 hours is part of life. Those participating, while vulnerable members of society, do not get a free pass for failing to think through what they were being offered (on-the-job experience, training and accreditation having already completed classroom training). And some of the comments in the story just don't seem to make sense, such as:
A 30-year-old steward told the Guardian that the conditions under the bridge were "cold and wet and we were told to get our head down [to sleep]". He said that it was impossible to pitch a tent because of the concrete floor.
From other quotes in the story, they only had a couple of hours between arriving and starting work; I doubt I'd bother to sleep for that period. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure one can erect most modern self-supporting frame tents on hard ground -- or else how could they be shown in hiking shops?

Some things do give me pause, such as the absence of toilet breaks, but a lot of the gripes just seem to be Hard Reality. I know this is a juicy story; I can see why it is gaining traction. However, there are people being exploited in the workplace, even in the UK, even as we speak, who suffer more than spending one long wet day outdoors (which is fairly typical for event stewarding, anyway) -- so can we please get some perspective?
posted by Talkie Toaster at 6:16 AM on June 5, 2012


Yet strangely enough, every time I've tried to engage friends and co-workers about the evils or workfare, the attitude has universally been: *shrug* good, they should work for their benefit.

Tell them this: Okay, then. We'll get workfare people, being paid by us nothing, to do your job, whereupon you will also be paid nothing.
posted by eriko at 6:16 AM on June 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


Not very well reported--lots of anonymous quotes.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:17 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


The story from business school, about the daycare, is from Freakonomics I believe.

Ah. It's fiction, then.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:18 AM on June 5, 2012 [21 favorites]


If he's still talking about the US, he couldn't be more wrong, unless "you" are a contractor, and even then, the company can just end the contract if you don't agree to changed conditions.


What the company can't do in the United States is remove your eligibility for welfare and food stamps.

This isn't rocket science. If you want to create jobs and training opportunities for welfare recipients, do it. FDR did it. There is no need to make welfare contingent on people signing up for these jobs. Just make the jobs pay more than welfare. Even Richard Nixon understood that much when he proposed the Negative Income Tax.
posted by ocschwar at 6:19 AM on June 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


There is another note on the jubilee by a blog called boycottworkfare.org. It appears they maintain a listing companies involved in workfare, currently including Argos, Asda, Boots, HMV, Salvation Army, Tesco, and various fast food chains. I shop mostly at Aldi and Morrisons, but yet another excuse to avoid Tesco.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:20 AM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


so can we please get some perspective?
The perspective surely, is we want less of this, both as it's wrong in itself and further, if we let this pass we're not doing those people being exploited in the workplace any favours either. Indeed, we might be paving the way for them to do their job at an "apprentice rate".
The association with the Jubilee events will give it traction that any of the many other stories I've read about appalling workfare practices haven't gained, so it's a great idea to run with it and have a debate.
posted by Abiezer at 6:20 AM on June 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


There is no need to make welfare contingent on people signing up for these jobs. Just make the jobs pay more than welfare.

Yeah..see, though, that's a problem. The trend is to pay as little as possible. Free workfare is an employer's hardest wetdream evar.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:23 AM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


QFT from a BB commenter: Only the Tories could make the situation of income-less people living under bridges the result of a government programme.
posted by jaduncan at 6:25 AM on June 5, 2012 [29 favorites]


Rather, the ideal product of the education system will be a malleable blob whose "on the job" training will be highly cost-efficient to the employer, on account of it being funded by state benefits.

It's the usual "have the state pay costs (and risks), while business gets the profits" dodge that is so popular.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:25 AM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


However, there are people being exploited in the workplace, even in the UK, even as we speak, who suffer more than spending one long wet day outdoors (which is fairly typical for event stewarding, anyway) -- so can we please get some perspective?

If you're concerned about people suffering worse exploitation, you should be delighted that this "lesser" instance is attracting such outrage. Or, what Abiezer said.
posted by WPW at 6:26 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Didn't Americans *revolt* against that malarkey?

No, they just didn't want to have to pay for it.

Those participating, while vulnerable members of society, do not get a free pass for failing to think through what they were being offered.

Based on the story, what they were offered sounds very different from what they got. Which was blackmail. Do this work for free or you lose any opportunity to work for pay later.

(on-the-job experience, training and accreditation having already completed classroom training)

Christ, and this sort of experience and training is going to set them up in a career for life!
posted by Jimbob at 6:27 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'd also be interested to find a media source other than the Guardian that is reporting this story (not that I dispute what the Guardian has reported).
I'd be surprised if anyone else picks up this story, I can't imagine any of the other British newspapers (other than the Independent) caring enough.
Some things do give me pause, such as the absence of toilet breaks, but a lot of the gripes just seem to be Hard Reality.
I imagine the Hard Reality you're so gung-ho about is probably something you don't have to endure as part of your regular work life.

I have to admit, I find the callous disregard for the way these individuals were exploited disgusting.

I imagine if they were paying them, the conditions under which they worked would probably be illegal. I understand that, by not paying them, they may have been able to disregard labour laws.
posted by axon at 6:27 AM on June 5, 2012 [41 favorites]


Looks like this story is getting some traction, the BBC is reporting that ex-Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, is calling for an inquiry.
posted by axon at 6:29 AM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


There is also a boycottworkfare facebook group that appears affiliated with www.boycottworkfare.org.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:29 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fascinating thing -- when you are a slaveholder, you have to pay to get your slave, and to keep your slave alive.

When you are using workfare, you get *other working people* taxed to get your slave and to keep your slave alive.
posted by eriko at 6:29 AM on June 5, 2012 [28 favorites]


If you're concerned about people suffering worse exploitation, you should be delighted that this "lesser" instance is attracting such outrage.

I am delighted. But I am also mystified: do people want an active labour market policy? How do they want the interface between the welfare state and private industry to work?
posted by Talkie Toaster at 6:30 AM on June 5, 2012


It's continuously funny how fast Americans bristle about any opinion of the place

When you write this, you are making it seem as though Americans are thin-skinned. It seems obvious that rtha was coming from a much harsher perspective than your mis-informed Brazilian friend. Furthermore, this statement:
There is a moral obligation to take care of other people. Not everywhere, not everybody, but in general, the lack of a welfare state in the US means that people generally take better care of each other.
...is not formulated as an opinion at all. It seems to me that the takeaway from the Drug War is that this is very much an incorrect statement.

In the US, it seems to me, our moral obligations are routinely compromised by a culture that kowtows to the interests of the wealthy.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 6:31 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well this is an interesting twist on Anatole France's quote "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."...
posted by symbioid at 6:33 AM on June 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


(on-the-job experience, training and accreditation having already completed classroom training)

<Mr. Burns>"Smithers, we need more interns."</Mr. Burns>

How do they want the interface between the welfare state and private industry to work?

Presumably in a manner that doesn't make people work for nothing.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:34 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


How do they want the interface between the welfare state and private industry to work?

Well, not allowing people without a job to be forced to work in a job without pay just because they don't have a job, would be a start.

If this was "Unemployed people given opportunity to work, paid standard rates, paid legally mandated overtime for working 14 hours, and provided with a toilet" it wouldn't be on Metafilter.

I can totally understand the requirement that unemployed people receiving benefit payments should have to show active and constant attempts to find work or undergo training. That works for me. Making them perform labour that isn't actually paid as labour, under duress, is right off the fucking scale.
posted by Jimbob at 6:35 AM on June 5, 2012 [50 favorites]


How do they want the interface between the welfare state and private industry to work?
Its pretty straightforward: we expect private industry to pay a basic, living wage in exchange for people's labour. Its really not so mysterious, how did it possibly escape you?
posted by axon at 6:36 AM on June 5, 2012 [34 favorites]


How about the 'interface' being the National Minimum Wage?
posted by brilliantmistake at 6:37 AM on June 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


Oh god, this a million times:

>If this was "Unemployed people given opportunity to work, paid standard rates, paid legally mandated overtime for working 14 hours, and provided with a toilet" it wouldn't be on Metafilter."


Can we have a signed affadavit of having read and understood this before participating?
posted by cromagnon at 6:39 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


That's exactly what I got on dole schemes when I was a teen, and they made sure the work we did (e.g. clearing country churchyards and doing up village halls) wasn't taking any work off a proper contractor.
posted by Abiezer at 6:40 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Presumably in a manner that doesn't make people work for nothing.

From the follow-up article:
Speaking about those who were unpaid, Prince said: "The only ones that won't be paid are because they don't want to be paid. They want to do this voluntarily, [to] get the work experience." This was because they would no longer be able to claim jobseeker benefits if they accepted a wage for the work, she said.
"Working for nothing" is a strong statement. These people, if we take this statement as true, were not doing that. How else do we arrange work experience in the private sector for long-term unemployed -- I would be interested in a genuine answer. It seems some others would prefer that all work experience were organised in the public sector....

How about the 'interface' being the National Minimum Wage?

Which I am sure the company offered to pay, if we take the above quote at face value.
posted by Talkie Toaster at 6:42 AM on June 5, 2012


The fascinating thing -- when you are a slaveholder, you have to pay to get your slave, and to keep your slave alive.


I think it's a bit worse than that. To a slaveholder, slaves are property, and poorly maintained property loses its value, thereby costing the slaveholder. Employees can be hired and fired at will as demand changes and the employer is relieved of any obligation to maintain them. I don't know how true this is, but I had a sociology professor who insisted this was the only reason Adam Smith was against slavery.

In the early 1990s my father escaped some large, debilitating layoffs at a major defense contractor because at the time he was a contract employee, and the contract was considered an asset whereas the full-time employees were expenses.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:46 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


The only ones that won't be paid are because they don't want to be paid. They want to do this voluntarily, [to] get the work experience." This was because they would no longer be able to claim jobseeker benefits if they accepted a wage for the work, she said.

And, y'know, it would have simply been a legislative impossibility to enact a temporary exemption for working the Queen's Fucking Jubilee™.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:46 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


if we take this statement as true

Yes, if there's one thing one can rely on as true it's the fact that exploitative employers would never say things in the press to sound a little better the morning after.

Yes, I'm aware that's a terrible ad hom. It's also true.
posted by jaduncan at 6:47 AM on June 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


From other quotes in the story, they only had a couple of hours between arriving and starting work; I doubt I'd bother to sleep for that period.

The article doesn't give any indication of when they were told that they only had a couple of hours. The best indication is in the blog post linked above, which says they weren't told until 4:15 that they would be starting at 5am. Also I imagine they might have wanted to get some sleep if they knew they would be working a 14 hour shift directly afterwards.
posted by eykal at 6:48 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The whole thing sounds like a terribly organised clusterfuck from beginning to end, to be honest.
posted by jaduncan at 6:51 AM on June 5, 2012


"Working for nothing" is a strong statement.

Only because its true, they worked unpaid. How else do you describe it?

How else do we arrange work experience in the private sector for long-term unemployed

I don't understand why you're calling this "work experience": what kind of job will these jobseekers get from sleeping under a bridge and working one day as a steward?

Which I am sure the company offered to pay, if we take the above quote at face value.

I note your quote is contradicted by this from the original article:
Both stewards said they were originally told they would be paid. But when they got to the coach on Saturday night, they said, they were told that the work would be unpaid and that if they did not accept it they would not be considered for well-paid work at the Olympics.
posted by axon at 6:51 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


The boss's claims have been disputed by several of the workers already, e.g. this from the first link:
Both stewards said they were originally told they would be paid. But when they got to the coach on Saturday night, they said, they were told that the work would be unpaid and that if they did not accept it they would not be considered for well-paid work at the Olympics.
posted by Abiezer at 6:51 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Then there's the issue of no sanitary facility (which is covered under US labor law) no changing facility for putting on the mandated uniforms (which is covered under US labor law, and hey, a bathroom would have counted. There wasn't even a bathroom), no foul weather gear (which is covered under US labor law), and good christ, how much further do we need to go?

Being poor and out of work doesn't make their employer entitled to ignore workplace conditions.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:52 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Perhaps we could have that in triplicate? This is to do with benefits payments :D
posted by Abiezer at 6:52 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


The press release describing the work on the Prospects site is pretty interesting, definite gulf between PR spin and sordid reality.
posted by brilliantmistake at 6:56 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


They offered the national minimum mandated for apprentices - £2.80 an hour - to everyone. Those who took it were either young enough to count as an apprentice* or had earned sufficiently little that they could accept the payment without reducing their benefit. A large proportion of the people involved chose to forgo being paid this amount because they would lose a comparable or larger amount from their existing benefits. My understanding is that if they had chosen to not take the workfare placement (maybe not just this one, maybe refusing several over a period) they would lose the benefit anyway.

This whole thing is a loophole assault on a relaxation in the minimum wage legislation intended to allow small manufacturing businesses a way to take skilled young people into employment, for profit, after lobbying. The taxpayer just got robbed to the exact amount that the people under the bridge didn't get paid.

*yes, apprentices. Presumably after 7 years of one-to-one supervision, they would become a Master Steward, and able to stand facing away from large public events in an artisanal manner.
posted by cromagnon at 6:58 AM on June 5, 2012 [24 favorites]


What the ccompany can't do in the United States is remove your eligibility for welfare and food stamps.

Actually, sure they can, at least the "welfare" part, which by the way, we dont really have in the United States. As part of the the 1996 PRWORA legislation (welfare reform), "work activities" are required and states can sanction TANF recipients for any number of things. Additionally, the man quoted in the story here, would certainly not be eligible for any sort of "welfare" in most states.

This seems pretty close to the modern equivalent of being sent to a workhouse.
posted by robot vacuum at 6:59 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


What is missing from this picture? Unions. They've been so effectively demonised and made impotent that in my experience, most people under 30 have no real idea what they are or why they're a good idea.

They have to be revived, in some form, to act as a counterbalance to the commodification of the workforce.
posted by Devonian at 7:00 AM on June 5, 2012 [25 favorites]


"All those people have been promised Proper paid work at the Olympic Games with pay of up to £9000 for doing it."

How much would you like to bet that those Olympic stewarding jobs will also turn out to be unpaid or non-existent?

I've been puzzling over the Olympic link - could it be to do with security?

Maybe the firms providing Olympic stewards will need to prove the have not just dragged people off the street - but are employing "experienced" stewards.

So they were/are using the Jubilee gig to cheaply create "credentials" for their Olympic workforce?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:01 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Presumably after 7 years of one-to-one supervision, they would become a Master Steward, and able to stand facing away from large public events in an artisanal manner.

Friend commented elsewhere they got an NVQ in crowd supervision (or whatever it's called) in a week-end, while the (splendidly Walter Mitty) Close Protection lot claim six months.
You're bang on about the wholesale abuse of apprenticeship.
posted by Abiezer at 7:01 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The comments in the Guardian piece contains one from a parent of someone involved in this mess:
Daphne1
5 June 2012 10:12AM

My child is part of this farce up there, but is so desperate for a job they have stuck it out. They have been on the phone in tears, saying they are soaking wet, bleeding feet and sleeping in a wet muddy field with barely any facilities. I have said for gods sake come home but if they did it would be the end of the course and no SIA badge, I feel murderous, they are still there with one more night to do. Lets not forget that we as parents had to provide the tent and all the camping gear, not cheap
And Molly Prince, who runs Close Protection UK replied in the Eddie Gillard post (though she's basically either uninformed or lying):
Molly Prince says : June 5, 2012 at 6:36 am

I am happy to answer your questions! But first I will cover some back ground information for your story to ensure accuracy of reporting. Firstly We are absolutely un aware of any staff being forced to attend the event and are extremely un happy if this is the case. There is no unpaid labour, everyone in training is being paid apprenticeship rate, whilst this is not a great amount, but it is the national recognised training rate of pay set by government. It was agreed that the sponsoring of licenses, purchasing of kit needed to work, boots, combats etc that individuals would normally purchase themselves would benefit them more. The majority of people who worked the event enjoyed the experience and are looking forward to the Olympics! We are not in the business of exploiting anyone

My Company – Close Protection UK Limited is an SIA Approved Contractor and has Investors in People accreditation, we take the welfare of our staff and Apprentices very seriously in deed. Our relationship with Tomorrows People is such that they referred a number of unemployed individuals in Bristol and Plymouth, whilst we were recruiting in readiness for this year’s Olympics. The Staff travelling to The Jubilee are completing their training and being assessed on the Job for NVQ Level 2 in Spectator Safety after having completed all the knowledge requirements in the classroom and some previous work experience. It is essential that they are assessed in a live work environment in order to complete their chosen qualifications.

The nature of Festival & Event work is such that we often travel sleeping on coaches through the night with an early morning pre-event start, it is the nature of the business and there is misconception about this, it’s hard work and not for the faint hearted. We had staff travel from several locations and some arrived earlier than others at the meeting point which I believe was London Bridge, I will investigate why they got off the coach before the others arrived, as it would have seemed more sensible to stay on the coach.This is an unfortunate set of circumstances but not lack of care on the part of CPUK.

CPUK Have not only purchased tents for everyone (Some stewards wanted to use their own but it was too wet to put them up, they insinsted in having a go! )CPUK Director had organised a warm dry communial area for all to sleep)and all other camping facilities, we have put all staff through Btec Level 2 Door Supervision, applied and paid for SIA Licenses at £255 each, purchased Magnum boots circa £70 each, Combat Pants and Polo Shirts circa £50 per set, HI VIS & PPE etc., so our financial investment is extensive. The Jubilee Job will run at an extensive loss, and if you take a look at our published accounts you will see the company ran at a loss last year due to our investment in giving apprentices work placement opportunities which we could not charge our clients for!

The Legacy of all this being, we have built a workforce highly trained weekly over several months and ready to deliver excellent security and event safety services. And as Danny commented earlier even if we are not in a position to offer full time and permanent employment to all these individuals, they will be SIA Licensed, experienced and employable. They will be called upon by CPUK as needed every year for the festival season, so in short we feel very strongly that we have done our bit, to help with making people more employable by offering good quality training, resources and the final bit being work experience whilst being supervised by our extensively experienced supervisors, tutors and assessors.

Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me directly,

Kind Regards,

Molly Prince
Managing Director
Close Protection UK Limited
posted by Grangousier at 7:06 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Gawd bless yer, yer majesty! /tugs forelock.

Fucking pathetic, all of it.
posted by Artw at 7:31 AM on June 5, 2012


Some of this is atrocious, and should be investigated. Some of the original blog post is just, well, fluff...

One was dressed only in Shirt and slacks as she had not been provided with any waterproof coat, save for a lightweight poncho and a hi vis vest for the jubilee event.
... So, she had not been provided with any waterproof coat, but she was provided with a waterproof poncho. And this is bad... how? The writing even attempts to obfuscate the fact that she was in fact provided with adequate protection from the rain.

Yellow-journalism blogging aside, an investigation is in order, and if this is true, I hope some execs lose jobs over it, and a change is made in state policies.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:34 AM on June 5, 2012


Great Britain indeed. Also, Ms. Prince uses rather too many exclamation marks for someone who intends to be taken seriously.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:36 AM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Are there no workhouses?

Anyway, I hope the company's catering had the foresight of serving them cake.
posted by Skeptic at 7:37 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yep, nothing upholds the feudal tradition of monarchy like serf labour.

Sticking it to the poor in the guise of 'welfare reform' is far more an American invention of more recent vintage than it is feudal tradition.

All those panhandlers downtown ? They could find a job if they wanted to but instead they can make a hundred dollars a day begging -- what do they need food stamps for ? -- if I had a dime for every time I have overheard something like this since Reagan was elected, I'd have a hundred dollar day, myself. People actually believe this sort of crap here.
posted by y2karl at 7:41 AM on June 5, 2012


I suspect Mrs. Prince is being economical with the truth; the alternative is that like Rupert Murdoch and the NOTW, this is the action of a few rogue reporters stewards. Neither of which speak well of CP UK.
posted by arcticseal at 7:41 AM on June 5, 2012


One was dressed only in Shirt and slacks as she had not been provided with any waterproof coat, save for a lightweight poncho and a hi vis vest for the jubilee event.
... So, she had not been provided with any waterproof coat, but she was provided with a waterproof poncho. And this is bad... how? The writing even attempts to obfuscate the fact that she was in fact provided with adequate protection from the rain.

Well lightweight poncho, which if it's anything like the ones I've worn at AFL games on rainy mid-winter Melbourne nights is more of a hindrance than a help. Hard to get into, rips straight away, etc.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:43 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, beautiful. This company is based in Wigan.
posted by ocschwar at 7:47 AM on June 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


... So, she had not been provided with any waterproof coat, but she was provided with a waterproof poncho. And this is bad... how? The writing even attempts to obfuscate the fact that she was in fact provided with adequate protection from the rain.

It wasn't exactly warm on the Jubilee, I imagine you would have felt the weather just wearing a shirt and a light, plastic poncho. Especially down by the river.

At least a coat would have kept them warm and dry.
posted by axon at 7:49 AM on June 5, 2012


So, she had not been provided with any waterproof coat, but she was provided with a waterproof poncho. And this is bad... how?

Lightweight poncho = dry-cleaning bag with head and armholes.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:50 AM on June 5, 2012 [19 favorites]


There is an old saying that someone who is a conservative at 19 has no heart; if they are a conservative at 29, they have no brain. (Sometimes this is attributed to Winston Churchill). The older I get, the more I think: someone who is not a Marxist at 29, at least in their understanding of how the world actually works, has not been paying attention. I don't want to believe that this is true: it just keeps seeming like the best explanation.

This has never been an old saying, ever. The saying most often attributed to Winston Churchill is some version of "Show me a conservative (under X relatively young age) and I'll show you someone without a heart. Show me a liberal (over X middle age) and I'll show you someone without a brain."
However, hilariously, the most recent quote sourceable, by French Premier Clemenceau, substitutes socialists, as in, "Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head." The oldest found is John Adams, “A boy of 15 who is not a democrat is good for nothing, and he is no better who is a democrat at 20.”

The purpose of all have basically been to suggest that people in their youth make decisions based on emotion and generosity of spirit, while people in middle age and older make more practical decisions.

While I don't know if I agree with that, I definitely think that not being a Marxist has nothing to do with "not paying attention."
posted by corb at 7:57 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I definitely think that not being a Marxist has nothing to do with "not paying attention."

Being a Marxist in the sense lucien_reeve is using is an analytic position, rather than a political ideological one. I'd argue that any analysis of history and politics that does not at least have strong answers to the issues and questions raised by the Marxist tradition is likely to be hugely underpowered.
posted by howfar at 8:18 AM on June 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


God save the Queen, and her fascist regime!
posted by No Robots at 8:19 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Being a Marxist in the sense lucien_reeve is using is an analytic position, rather than a political ideological one

I would argue that it's impossible to adopt a political ideological analysis and then claim it's devoid of ideology. There is no such thing as depoliticized Marxist analysis because it is unable to be by its very nature. It is possible to examine the different types of work structures, political and economic shifts, etc, without buying into the "Marxist Dialectic."

Personally, I think there are a lot of other data gaps that make just such an analysis underpowered, but maybe that's just me.
posted by corb at 8:27 AM on June 5, 2012


US media's fascination with the British royal family pretty much baffles me. Didn't Americans revolt against that malarkey?

Well, not all of them. The sort of people who make up the Republican party base these days, and are increasingly running the country, would have been loyalists back then.
posted by Naberius at 8:29 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


US media's fascination with the British royal family pretty much baffles me.

Don't think of it as being fascinated by the British royal family. Think of it as being fascinated by rich people, especially those with no particular talent except having come out of a wealthy vagina.
posted by Legomancer at 8:31 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


So the article says this was around 80 people, if I'm reading it right... is that the case here, or is it expected to be just the tip of an iceberg? All I saw of the event was the Daily Show mocking CNN's coverage of it, but even so, it looked like the sort of thing that would have hundreds of people doing crowd control & such. Was this just one company treating its employees this way, or is this an example of how the other staff providers handled the event (and others like it)?

If this was just one staffing provider among many, I imagine it'd be a manageable thing to address. If this is business as usual, though... ugh.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:32 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The sort of people who make up the Republican party base these days, and are increasingly running the country, would have been loyalists back then.

I don't think Canada would take them now. Although...
posted by Skeptic at 8:34 AM on June 5, 2012


Sticking it to the poor in the guise of 'welfare reform' is far more an American invention of more recent vintage than it is feudal tradition.

Same dogs. Different collars.
posted by Skeptic at 8:35 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


So the article says this was around 80 people, if I'm reading it right... is that the case here, or is it expected to be just the tip of an iceberg?

Proof of concept for the Olympics. Unless you really believe they intend on paying all of the low-level help.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:39 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


and are increasingly running the country, would have been loyalists back then.

Hey, a major portion of English speaking immigrants to Canada were loyalists. Leave those poor buggers out of your aspersions, they seem to have by and large created a society more socialist than the one where they came from turned into.
posted by Phalene at 8:43 AM on June 5, 2012


US media's fascination with the British royal family pretty much baffles me.

It's just the storybook fairy-tale aspect of the royalty--there's no real historical awareness attached to it, in the media at least. The history of the Revolution, and the upper hand that the US has come to enjoy in the 'special relationship,' probably makes it easier to view the whole thing as quaint and charming, if anything. I feel like I've heard more anti-Royal sentiment from citizens of Commonwealth nations aside from Britain, which makes sense to me. Plus the fact that its not our taxes maintaining the tradition--something I've heard Brits complain about--make it easier to view the whole thing as harmless. The Jubilee might be a bit hard to take if one's community has been hard-hit by the various austerity cut-backs.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:53 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can take or leave a lot of loyalist stuff, but the Godfrey-Milliken Bill was a work of comedic delight.
posted by frimble at 8:57 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would argue that it's impossible to adopt a political ideological analysis and then claim it's devoid of ideology.

Of course. No analysis is devoid of ideology, as any Marxist would tell you. But there are Marxists of myriad persuasions and types. No-one with any serious scholarly interest in Marx is a vulgar Marxist "buying into" a simple model of a materialist dialectic. It's nearly 150 years since the publication of the first volume of Capital, and it's been a busy century-and-a-half in terms of debate, dispute and development, I can assure you.

It is possible to examine the different types of work structures, political and economic shifts, etc, without buying into the "Marxist Dialectic."

Neglecting the notion of economic class, however, would place you at a severe disadvantage. One of the fundamental weaknesses of modern neo-liberal and libertarian thought is that it has extremely limited means of accounting for the agglomerations of power that occur within societies as they develop. The dehistoricisation of politics by liberal thinkers is a good reason to read more Marx, even if one doesn't agree with him or identify as a Marxist; he really is an absolutely vital thinker.
posted by howfar at 9:10 AM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]




... So, she had not been provided with any waterproof coat, but she was provided with a waterproof poncho. And this is bad... how?
Take it from someone who works outdoors: a "lightweight poncho" does nothing to keep you warm, they absolutely do not keep you dry if the wind blows, and tear immediately. If you lift your arms above ninety degrees you are soaked from the wrist up, and if they have no hood you get wet from the neck down. I don't believe that anyone could comfortably work in one for more than an hour in actual wet conditions.

Many years ago when I worked in a cafe, I had a manager who told me he would never ask any employee to do something he wouldn't do himself. I've always remembered that, and take the same philosophy with people who have worked as my gardening assistants. I don't think you can manage people with any credibility whatsoever if you have insulated yourself from the lame things they have to put up with. If these "employers" had given them decent grub, lodging, workwear, and facilities we would never had heard about this. The great thing is the people in this thread saying "they knew what they were getting into", as if that excuses employers treating employees much worse than they would treat themselves. I don't know why there are people who seem to think society is improved by treating the young and/or disadvantaged with such contempt. Here's hoping you are never being attended by poorly paid, disrespected and under educated hospice workers in your dotage.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:44 AM on June 5, 2012 [36 favorites]




Remember when a "Jubilee Year" meant that you freed all your slaves, and forgave everyone's debts?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:02 AM on June 5, 2012 [23 favorites]


Reminds me of the Job Centre from The League of Gentlemen.
posted by audi alteram partem at 10:14 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Both stewards said they were originally told they would be paid. But when they got to the coach on Saturday night, they said, they were told that the work would be unpaid and that if they did not accept it they would not be considered for well-paid work at the Olympics.

Reminds me of the pitch commonly used, so I've read, in the human trafficking that results in sex slavery: We have a good job for you in the USA, as a maid which pays more than you can earn in Whereverstan! (You are then held against your will and forced to be a prostitute.) If you're a good girl, soon you can keep a percentage!
posted by scratch at 10:26 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's exploitative. Hard to understand how anybody can get behind this.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:30 AM on June 5, 2012


scratch...It's also a frighteningly familiar pitch every graphic designer and/or illustrator has heard numerous times..."I can't pay you for your hard work now, but, once my idea hits big, there will be lots of good-paying work coming your way."
posted by Thorzdad at 10:42 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


At long last we have addressed the heartless inequity of forbidding both the poor and the rich from sleeping under bridges.
posted by JackFlash at 10:58 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is excellent news. Hopefully they just created some more people who despise the monarchy and the vile engine of privilege and tradition that drives it.

I have kept my head down these past four days, even though I have been working. Sunday was the worst; ferrying all the soaked-to-the-skin, flag-waving dickheads back to their home counties homes, in impossibly crammed trains. I was polite to everyone I couldn't avoid, unlike one of my guards, who took great delight in telling me that he dealt with one particularly rude and insistent complainer with the pithy rejoinder "Serves you right for coming out to kiss royal arse, you Tory cunt".

I love my job. These are my people.
posted by Decani at 11:06 AM on June 5, 2012 [32 favorites]


As some have noted upthread, there's not a lot of "Job Training" on a one day excursion into festive activities. It's exploitation of labor pure and simple. Underpaid labor.

And the deep economic incentive has absolutely nothing to do with "helping those poor sods get a job in the long run" and everything to do with adding downward pressure on wages.

The more you add people to the workpool via things like workfare or, say, making senior citizens work ever longer before they collect social security (and thus before they can obtain a little peace of mind, labor-free, before their final breath), the more resources you have to exploit. When you've extracted profit to the extreme there's nowhere left to go but extracting it from the wages (well until they devise a new scheme to defraud everyone). But the point is, workfare has nothing to do with pure moral motives (though it's great for putting the pressures of social mores on those who aren't able to find a job by those who have jobs and like to feel superior while getting fucked over by the rich and powerful).

jeffburdges is right to bring up a basic income concept. I think this is probably the best solution, but I don't agree that it would be politically feasible. Anything that smacks of giving someone "undeserving" a little extra to survive without having to struggle for existence would be berated in today's America, even though that old darling of the conservative class, Milton Friedman supported the idea.

As did the even more extreme Hayek support such a concept.
posted by symbioid at 11:09 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Slaves to the rhythm?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:25 AM on June 5, 2012


It's kind of scary how many communists are on MeFi. I guess just because right wing radio talk show hosts are paranoid, doesn't mean that extremist left-wingers arent't really out to destroy capitalism and modern civilization.

I don't really see the problem with workfare in theory, even if it was executed poorly here. There are plenty of people, at least in the US, who really do abuse the welfare system, and have no intention of ever working or contributing to society. See eg this video by Alexandra Pelosi that ran on the Bill Maher show:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2kGPdxkofo&feature=youtube_gdata_player
posted by shivohum at 11:56 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Communists?
posted by Grangousier at 12:00 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Communists? WHERE?
posted by rtha at 12:01 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Communists? Really? Is this just a troll, or do you have a different definition of that word than most people?

Enjoy your paranoia, but don't forget your tin foil hat.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:01 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Communists? Really? Is this just a troll, or do you have a different definition of that word than most people?

Could the poster be from Australia and a reader of The Australian (Murdoch's paper there, which keeps the red scare alive to this day) by any chance?
posted by acb at 12:03 PM on June 5, 2012


Its not communism to pay people for their work. Thats capitalism shurely?

Great first post mate, saw it on LibCon and was going to post it myself.

While I agree there are people who do not want to work, there are better ways of doing it than this.
posted by marienbad at 12:07 PM on June 5, 2012


As one of the people engaging in the Marxism discussion piece upthread, I want to say that could be what prompted the "communists" piece. It may not be totally out of nowhere.

(Which discussion I'll get back to as soon as I'm not on a tiny keyboard)
posted by corb at 12:10 PM on June 5, 2012


> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2kGPdxkofo&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Wow, I can hardly believe how racist and classist this video is! And it's coming from people who are supposedly allies of what passes for the left in the US.
posted by cdward at 12:14 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


"It's kind of scary how many communists are on MeFi. I guess just because right wing radio talk show hosts are paranoid, doesn't mean that extremist left-wingers arent't really out to destroy capitalism and modern civilization."

Comrades, our Communist plan:

Step 1: Comment repeatedly on metafilter.com.
Step 2: ????
Step 3: Await destruction of capitalism and modern civilization.
Step 4: Force everyone into gay marriages, cookies, relax, get cats stuck in scanners.

Who's with me?
posted by jaduncan at 12:15 PM on June 5, 2012 [22 favorites]


The really depressing part is that we refuse to learn from history. It's not as if any of these concepts are new. In times of great unemployment, it does make sense for the government to find people work. But the idea is that the work the unemployed do, should not be for private companies otherwise the private companies are getting access to essentially a tax subsidized workforce (or near-slaves in extreme circumstances, such as these), which distorts wages for everyone, and also makes the private sector dependent on such tax-subsidised labor in a vicious circle. Instead, why not look at what was done successfully almost a hundred years ago? There are several successful models that were developed in FDR's administration - why not look there? If you are already tax-subsidising labor for the unemployed, why not employ them for the public good where they don't even compete with the private sector? For example, the Civilian Conservation Corps where tons of unemployed people were used by the government to plant trees and reclaim land - something that has paid dividends to this day and been a foundation of the national park system that's the envy of the world. The advantage of that was that it did vital work for society, but work that would never have been done voluntarily by private business, because there is no market and no incentive. So it didn't displace any private business or economy - on the contrary, the few bucks in the pockets of those workers were spent in remote areas of the country stimulating local economies. But, well, socialism and all, so bad, bad, bad - what we have now is so much better, with the benefit of decades of experience.
posted by VikingSword at 12:15 PM on June 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


It's kind of scary how many communists are on MeFi.

So there's the version of Godwin's Law that says the first person to call the other a Nazi loses the argument. I guess you've just McCarthied.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:20 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is how far the extreme right has warped narrative. If you believe that the government should not provide free unpaid labor to private companies, you are now a communist.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:24 PM on June 5, 2012 [28 favorites]


I guess just because right wing radio talk show hosts are paranoid, doesn't mean that extremist left-wingers arent't really out to destroy capitalism and modern civilization.


Well, if capitalism and modern civilization wasn't out to destroy me and everyone else it wouldn't be a problem.
posted by fuq at 12:25 PM on June 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


Comrades, our Communist plan:


Yup, that should take about 5 years.
posted by ocschwar at 12:27 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's kind of scary how many communists are on MeFi.

Oh, for fandango_matt's Maohowie picture and the image tag.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:28 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Instead, why not look at what was done successfully almost a hundred years ago? There are several successful models that were developed in FDR's administration - why not look there? If you are already tax-subsidising labor for the unemployed, why not employ them for the public good where they don't even compete with the private sector?
You're right, we know there are models that not only work, but treat people with justice and dignity. But capital runs the show, and capital will always prioritize private advantage over public good.
posted by cdward at 12:30 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Communists? On Mefi? Sounds like it's time to Root 'em out, Joe.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:31 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


And Molly Prince, who runs Close Protection UK replied in the Eddie Gillard post (though she's basically either uninformed or lying):

If you want a picture of the future, imagine an illiterate moron justifying their continuous thieving in an inane press release, forever
posted by junco at 12:41 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yup, that should take about 5 years.

Five years and with the wrong syntax, translated and then re-translated through a crack outfit out of Azerbaijan. Delivered by car.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:42 PM on June 5, 2012


Thinking about it more, workfare seems like the Speenhamland system for the modern age. Wages will keep low if bosses can get labor cheap. Yet the tax burden will not lighten if the state is still paying for those so "employed". Were I a taxpayer I would be angry that my money isn't paying to upkeep the poor but rather to subsidize the wage bill of a wealthy boss.

There's also the potential that as economic activity is simply shifting from paid employees to subsidized employees rather than being created, the lump of labor fallacy may come true. For the average worker it could well be better to pay to keep the workless economically inactive rather than subject them to workfare. If benefits are far lower than the minimum wage, saying that people should work for them devalues labor. As VikingSword points out, they can be put to work doing something that otherwise would not be done. Otherwise, keep them idle.
posted by Jehan at 12:49 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's kind of scary how many communists are on MeFi.

it's kind of scary how basic human dignity and fairness is considered communism by some
posted by pyramid termite at 12:52 PM on June 5, 2012 [20 favorites]


axon: "... So, she had not been provided with any waterproof coat, but she was provided with a waterproof poncho. And this is bad... how? The writing even attempts to obfuscate the fact that she was in fact provided with adequate protection from the rain.

It wasn't exactly warm on the Jubilee, I imagine you would have felt the weather just wearing a shirt and a light, plastic poncho. Especially down by the river.

At least a coat would have kept them warm and dry.
"

So, you're saying that people who aren't smart enough to wear a coat when they leave at 2am to work outside in cool weather should be given complete new wardrobes by their employers?

Seriously, this is just ridiculous. They were given pants, shirt, shoes, and a poncho by their employer. You can spin it as something awful and oppressive, but at a certain point they do bear responsibility to learn to tie their own shoes and not stare gape-mouthed up at the sky until they drown from collected rain.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:56 PM on June 5, 2012


shivohum: "It's kind of scary how many communists are on MeFi. "

Please read a dictionary.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:58 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is this something I'd need a monarchy to understand?

Sorry, couldn't resist!
posted by slogger at 1:05 PM on June 5, 2012


They were given pants, shirt, shoes, and a poncho by their employer.

The polo shirt that was their uniform, which they were required to wear (not their own coat). Obviously intended for the nice sunny day that everyone thought it would be, with a thin plastic covering the only protection against rain. But it's not only been wet, it's also been cold.

(I live about a mile away from the action, and have been studiously avoiding it all weekend, though reports on the local website suggests that it organisation has been chaotic on every level, but one must expect a clusterfuck when everything is privatised and done as cheaply as possible.)
posted by Grangousier at 1:10 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's kind of scary how many communists are on MeFi. I guess just because right wing radio talk show hosts are paranoid, doesn't mean that extremist left-wingers arent't really out to destroy capitalism and modern civilization.

This is where adopting a marxist framework would come in handy, because then you'd know that the sentence above is pure bunk.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:18 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think you need to have read Die Grundrisse to know that the sentence above is pure bunk.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:29 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, this is just ridiculous. They were given pants, shirt, shoes, and a poncho by their employer. You can spin it as something awful and oppressive, but at a certain point they do bear responsibility to learn to tie their own shoes and not stare gape-mouthed up at the sky until they drown from collected rain.

Awful and oppressive? I don't know. Illegal? Almost certainly. According to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992:

Every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work except where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective.

And yes, weather exposure does count as a risk to their health and safety:

In these Regulations, unless the context otherwise requires, “personal protective equipment” means all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects him against one or more risks to his health or safety, and any addition or accessory designed to meet that objective.

I don't think that a light poncho is adequate protection against the weather for somebody having to stand for hours in the rain. Not only it wasn't the workers responsability to provide for their own protective clothing, it seems particularly abusive considering that most of them were underpaid or not paid at all...
posted by Skeptic at 1:34 PM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


This cannot possibly be real. There's was a mistake, and there has been an explanation that's cleared everything up, right?
posted by KokuRyu at 1:50 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


As one of the people engaging in the Marxism discussion piece upthread, I want to say that could be what prompted the "communists" piece. It may not be totally out of nowhere.

Correct.

To everyone who's engaging in the predictable anti-anti-communist dismissiveness, consider this comment upthread:

The older I get, the more I think: someone who is not a Marxist at 29, at least in their understanding of how the world actually works, has not been paying attention. I don't want to believe that this is true: it just keeps seeming like the best explanation.
-30 favorites

And of course since we know the number of people who agree with a comment on MeFi is far lower than the people who bother to read and then favorite it... that's a lot of people who seem sympathetic to communist thought, indeed, possibly to the point of believing that someone who's not a Marxist hasn't been paying attention.

"By my reckoning, Karl Marx made about as much contribution to economics as Zeppo Marx made to comedy."

Who said that? Rush Limbaugh? Ann Coulter? Nope. Paul Krugman.

"Marxian Socialism must always remain a portent to the historians of Opinion — how a doctrine so illogical and so dull can have exercised so powerful and enduring an influence over the minds of men, and, through them, the events of history."

Who said that? Joe McCarthy? Some neo-con intellectual? Nope. John Maynard Keynes. I think he was paying attention.
posted by shivohum at 1:56 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"By my reckoning, Karl Marx made about as much contribution to economics as Zeppo Marx made to comedy."

Who said that? Rush Limbaugh? Ann Coulter? Nope. Paul Krugman.


I'm rapidly losing respect for Krugman these days, but that sentence may have a hidden meaning, because Zeppo was extremely gifted and often filled in for his brothers.
posted by Skeptic at 2:06 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Expoiting unpaid labour while gutting the working classes is Freakanomical!
posted by Artw at 2:07 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


that's a lot of people who seem sympathetic to communist thought,

And it's a huuuuuge leap to assume that anyone who is sympathetic to something Marx said is therefore a card-carrying Commie. Or even not card-carrying, but still a Commie. That's silly.
posted by rtha at 2:12 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


To everyone who's engaging in the predictable anti-anti-communist dismissiveness, consider this comment upthread:

The older I get, the more I think: someone who is not a Marxist at 29, at least in their understanding of how the world actually works, has not been paying attention. I don't want to believe that this is true: it just keeps seeming like the best explanation.
-30 favorites


*favorites comment*

*waits by mailbox*
posted by oneirodynia at 2:31 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


And even if it weren't, it's a huge leap to assume that there's anything scary about Commies. Even card-carrying ones.
posted by cdward at 2:32 PM on June 5, 2012


Anyway, it's all an irrelevant derail, having nothing to do with the subject at hand.
posted by Grangousier at 2:33 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Aw, c'mon, it's so funny! Really now, we couldn't have hoped for a more hilariously ignorant derail.
posted by aramaic at 3:01 PM on June 5, 2012


ot card-carrying, but still a Commie

SPLITTERS!
posted by Artw at 3:05 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


And it's a huuuuuge leap to assume that anyone who is sympathetic to something Marx said is therefore a card-carrying Commie.

It's not about agreeing with "something Marx said." The comment criticized anyone "who is not a Marxist at 29, at least in their understanding of how the world actually works"

Someone who is a Marxist, it is fair to say, even if "only" in their understanding of how the world works -- well, it's not a stretch to call them a communist, too, since for Marx his understanding of the world and history inevitably led to his ideology.
posted by shivohum at 3:07 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rather a Communist that a Capitalist...

The people's flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead,
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their hearts' blood dyed its ev'ry fold.

Then raise the scarlet standard high.
Within its shade we'll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:09 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Amended New Labour version cf. Steve Bell:

We'll keep the red rose in manure.
posted by Artw at 3:11 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You don't need Marx, you just need to read George Woodcock.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:16 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]




I wish that I had an ounce of the political power that Shivohum attributes to me, to initiate those who favourite my comments into an army in support of my preferred politics.

Sadly, I suspect that my actual political position, which essentially boils down to "be nice to people and try to base your views on an honest appraisal of how society works", is not the sort of thing that will ever catch on, because it doesn't sound very good when chanted or fit particularly well on a T-shirt.

Is it bad to be labelled a Communist? I'm not sure, to be honest. There were some very horrible people in the past who called themselves Communists. But there have also been some very good people who used that name too - just as there have been some thoroughly diabolical people who have said that they worked for "America" and "Freedom" and "Christ".

Almost any ideology has its monsters. It might be better to talk about arguments and ideas. If you dislike cruelty or bigotry or totalitarianism, it seems much more practical to resist that than to assume that evil always marches under the same, easily identifiable banner. He who fights yesterday's monsters is more often than not serving the monsters of today.

As for your quotes from Paul Krugman and John Maynard Keynes, I am not sure that they add up to much, really. I like both of them as writers - they are both impressively intelligent men with a great deal to teach people about economics. I am sure that they could argue rings around me.

But I cannot help but stand by my point. At least in my experience, limited as it is, certain key insights of Marx appear to be correct. It seems enormously clarifying to me to think about one's labour having value, for example, and employers as setting out to get as much of it as they can for as little in return, in order to get the greatest competitive advantage for themselves. Or the idea that society polarises naturally into classes, especially around who owns what kind of property and who has what role in producing things. Thinking about those issues clarifies a lot of things for me - frequently things that would otherwise seem rather odd. To look at the world in that way is to have the scales drop from one's eyes.

So, to clarify: I mean a Marxist in an analytical sense, which is to say someone who accepts a few of Marx's main insights about the nature of society and the nature of capitalism. I do not mean someone who calls himself a Marxist, or reads the Socialist Worker or knows the words of the Internationale. Aside from anything else, because I think that these ideas about the nature of society are basically true, I believe that any reasonably observant and intelligent person can figure something like them out for him or herself on the basis of observation.

To be honest, I think this is all just a bit of a distraction, really, from the vile thing that has actually happened here. We need to talk about that - and do something about it - and nobody should ever shrink from doing the right thing out of fear of being called a Communist.
posted by lucien_reeve at 3:24 PM on June 5, 2012 [34 favorites]


Rather a Communist that a Capitalist...

The people's flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead,
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their hearts' blood dyed its ev'ry fold.


Kronstadt.
Dekulakization.
Red Terror.
Katyn.
Mao.
The Khmer Rouge.
Tibet.

That flag's pretty damn red, but I wonder how you can sleep under it at night.
posted by corb at 3:49 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about:

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn
That the union makes us strong.

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the union makes us strong.
posted by audi alteram partem at 3:54 PM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]




This thread is getting ridcockulous.

That flag's pretty damn red, but I wonder how you can sleep under it at night.

Luckily the Commies supply blankets, seemingly in sharp contrast to current capitalist policy.

Seriously though. Please stop being silly. The atrocities committed in ideological defence of capitalism are hardly small in number, and the horrors of the developing world are a direct product of the capitalist imperialism Marx was critiquing. No ideology has a monopoly on horror and violence, and to suggest that to be a communist neccesitates support of or complicity in the horrors of communist regimes would be offensive if it weren't so off the wall.
posted by howfar at 3:57 PM on June 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


corb - I read, commented on and liked very much your recent AskMeFi about violent insurrection. I'd hope people don't jump immediately on your post above without knowing about it.
posted by cromagnon at 4:01 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


At least in my experience, limited as it is, certain key insights of Marx appear to be correct.

I appreciate your measured clarification. Even here, however, I think that Marx is not the best place from which to draw insight.

It seems enormously clarifying to me to think about one's labour having value, for example, and employers as setting out to get as much of it as they can for as little in return, in order to get the greatest competitive advantage for themselves.

The problem is that this is a very one-sided and misleading way of looking at the process of business. Employers don't just take value from labor; they very much create the context in which labor has any value at all.

Employee labor doesn't have some abstract, impersonal value. It's valuable in the context of an organization that, well, organizes it and adapts it to human needs. Businesses take labor, add leadership, culture, technology, risk-taking, managerial structure, marketing, planning, decision-making. Labor has little or no value without these other things. Just like uncultivated land, uncultivated labor is simply not very useful. Intellect, vision, and creativity are what are transformative, not simple labor. This is not to say that people shouldn't be treated humanely, etc. But I think the view of business as essentially a war of exploitation (indeed, it would have to be mutual exploitation -- since labor is obviously trying its best to cheat employers, too) is really narrow.

Or the idea that society polarises naturally into classes, especially around who owns what kind of property and who has what role in producing things.

Again, misleading. In American society, plenty of people who don't own that much hold conservative economic ideas. One can argue it's because they think they will one day be rich themselves, but then how would you explain the disproportionate number of billionaires who are very open liberals and Democrats? Again, that goes against class interest. Class interest may be a factor, but it is swamped by much more important variables like morality, technology, and the globalization.

--

No ideology has a monopoly on horror and violence, and to suggest that to be a communist neccesitates support of or complicity in the horrors of communist regimes would be offensive if it weren't so off the wall.

This is the argument that apologists of all failed ideologies make. To say that no ideology has a monopoly on horror obscures the very real differences between ideologies. Communism has produced the greatest amount of evil in the 20th century of any ideology by far. Left-wing intellectuals in the 20th century emphatically supported the USSR and other communist regimes even as the evidence of their crimes grew. They made a colossal, horrific mistake. They valued their smugly-built tower of doctrine too highly, and it was smashed to the ground. The first step to creating something new and better is for the left-wing to admit that. To try to suddenly divorce the word communism from its monstrous failures is ahistorical and a form of denial.
posted by shivohum at 4:12 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


They valued their smugly-built tower of doctrine too highly, and it was smashed to the ground.

Would you view Chicago economics in the same way due to the terrible human rights record of Pinochet's Chile? I'm seriously curious about how you think that an economic critique can be affected by governmental human rights records.
posted by jaduncan at 4:29 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is the argument that apologists of all failed ideologies make.

Except for apologists for capitalism, who just shrug their shoulders and allow the atrocities to continue.
posted by howfar at 4:29 PM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Polo Shirts circa £50 per set

Holy fuck were they buying them La Coste or Ralph Lauren or something??
posted by smoke at 4:31 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't see how improving agricultural production and increasing the number of tractors and building more steel mills is going to help us out out of this mess.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:35 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is the argument that apologists of all failed ideologies make.

Oh, *this* is the same argument that apologists of all failing ideologies make.
posted by fuq at 4:43 PM on June 5, 2012


I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green & pleasant Land

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:19 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


(indeed, it would have to be mutual exploitation -- since labor is obviously trying its best to cheat employers, too)

That's a doozy of a parenthetical.
posted by postcommunism at 6:11 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Employee labor doesn't have some abstract, impersonal value. It's valuable in the context of an organization that, well, organizes it and adapts it to human needs. Businesses take labor, add leadership, culture, technology, risk-taking, managerial structure, marketing, planning, decision-making. Labor has little or no value without these other things. Just like uncultivated land, uncultivated labor is simply not very useful. Intellect, vision, and creativity are what are transformative, not simple labor. This is not to say that people shouldn't be treated humanely, etc. But I think the view of business as essentially a war of exploitation (indeed, it would have to be mutual exploitation -- since labor is obviously trying its best to cheat employers, too) is really narrow.

what horrendous MBA goulash bullshit.

So labor doesn't ever make use of "leadership" or "decision-making"? Ugh, so many things wrong with this is paragraph, I think it would be best to start off by stripping out as much metaphor as possible because whatever is attempting to be expressed is hopelessly lost.

And labor does have intrinsic value -- as much intrinsic value as human dignity, but carry on with an economist's definition of value and see how far it gets you.

At least the parenthetical makes use of basic logic.
posted by Shit Parade at 8:48 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Socialist policies were enacted in the vast majority of the western world as a bulwark against the spread of Communism, not as a paean to it. This is where a lot of folks are coming from - the precedent that other European countries have set for treatment of workers and citizens who are unable to do so for the time being, a model that does exist (and, contrary to popular belief is still working in many nations) and is free of the pogroms and purges that characterized and marred Communist regimes.
posted by Selena777 at 8:49 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I think America deserves the upcoming Romney presidency and that fucker in Wisconsin.
posted by Artw at 9:26 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Creating value takes] labor, [...] leadership, culture, technology, risk-taking, managerial structure, marketing, planning, decision-making.

Of course. If you think that this is a criticism of Marxism, then you have a very narrow view of what Marxism is about.

We all have labour available to us (i.e. our own labour), but under capitalism money limits access to other resources (e.g. technology and marketing). This leads to economic classes (one class that has money, and therefore access to these resources, and another class that only has access to labour). These classes have conflicting interests.

When I understood this a lot of senseless things about our society became clear. Why would a government pursue an unjust and counterproductive policy like workfare, for example? Because it provides an advantage to capital.
posted by cdward at 9:51 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Would you view Chicago economics in the same way due to the terrible human rights record of Pinochet's Chile? I'm seriously curious about how you think that an economic critique can be affected by governmental human rights records.

Well first of all, I'm not just talking about individual human rights violations of the type we normally imagine when using that term. I'm also talking about atrocities like the Great Leap Forward and collectivizations that lead to massive famine. These flowed directly from communist economic policy.

Second, Chile actually did pretty well economically under Pinochet and is now a modern economy. So I think Chicago economics has a much better record than communism in achieving the goal of economic prosperity.

Third, and most importantly, capitalism doesn't seem to require authoritarianism. Communism does. It requires totalitarian regimes because it goes so much against human nature. Capitalism can exist alongside authoritarianism but it needn't. So in the case of communism the human rights violations are more tightly connected to economic ideology.

---

We all have labour available to us (i.e. our own labour), but under capitalism money limits access to other resources (e.g. technology and marketing).

Right, but my point is that capital is not some static quantity that one group keeps away from another. Real capital only comes into existence through the operation of the intelligence of a certain kind: one that effectively mobilizes people and resources to create things that people want.

Land is "capital." But not really. The capital that land is, is going to dramatically differ based on its intelligent cultivation, its use within a complex organizational structure. Land with oil under it is limited, but really it's only valuable when captured by sophisticated mining and refining operations that can really tap, utilize, transmute, and distribute it, and these funded by a complex financial network, a sophisticated legal system, and so on.

Capitalists have proven their ability to build, maintain, and grow these complex structures. It's not like they've simply taken their resources: the vast majority of the value of those resources are not in the raw material but in the intelligence that operates on it. Without that entrepreneurial intelligence, there really is no capital.

That's the story of the bourgeoisie, and why it controls society today.

Now if someone in the "laboring" classes really has the intelligence to grow the pool of capital, it is very much in the interests of the capitalists to find them and give them capital to grow. This is the essence of entrepreneurship. And by nature the talent is rare, so the competition is brutal. But the end result is that the pie grows. History shows just that.

Why would a government pursue an unjust and counterproductive policy like workfare, for example? Because it provides an advantage to capital.

Or...some people think it's unfair that some able-bodied people get money from the government without any chance they'll work and contribute in the future.
posted by shivohum at 10:29 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Artw: "Sometimes I think America deserves the upcoming Romney presidency and that fucker in Wisconsin."

Here's what I posted on FB tonight:
WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE AHEAD -- I'm no longer a Wisconsinite. I give up on this shitty state. It can go fuck itself. At least I"m not as disappointed as the 2004 re-election of Bush. I'm immune to that sort of depression anymore. This country is fucked and we are fucked and capitalism is shit and you can go suck goldman-sachs cock if you love money over humanity that much. I hear there's a lovely golden bull on Wall Street that Jehovah would love to smite if he wasn't so busy laughing at your pathetic asses as you continue to say you love your fellow humans while you shit all over them pushing them down and then mocking them as you do so like the big fucking god-bully that you are. Wisconsin is a shithole, the United States is a shithole and the world is a shithole and until people wake up and realize that this whole rotten system is murdering them everyday, well. Humanity gets what it deserves and if it's so goddamned shortsighted and foolish to believe that short term greed is better than long term mutuality then it will burn itself to the ground. /endrant
posted by symbioid at 10:57 PM on June 5, 2012


The Whispering Winds of Shit
posted by KokuRyu at 11:07 PM on June 5, 2012


Employee labor doesn't have some abstract, impersonal value. It's valuable in the context of an organization that, well, organizes it and adapts it to human needs.

well, according to those who employed these unfortunate people, it doesn't have any value at all, because they weren't paid anything

i wonder what kind of context creates that kind of valuation
posted by pyramid termite at 12:36 AM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Right, but my point is that capital is not some static quantity that one group keeps away from another. Real capital only comes into existence through the operation of the intelligence of a certain kind: one that effectively mobilizes people and resources to create things that people want.

I don't think you've read Marx, or even any Marx for beginners books, if you think that this argument is engaged at all with Marxism. You seem unaware of the very basic distinctions that Marx drew between the means of production and the factors of production. More worryingly, you seem to think that Marx thought that capital was the same thing as the means of production. Or maybe that's what you're saying. Not sure. If we're going to have this argument, I think you need a critique that actually attacks Marxist positions, rather than a very vague notion of them.

capitalism doesn't seem to require authoritarianism

Capitalism does require authoritarianism, it just outsources it to cheaper providers overseas.
posted by howfar at 2:34 AM on June 6, 2012 [7 favorites]




See at your link it mentions Tomorrow's People, the charity who placed the workers. and Close Protection. Had read on another forum that they were previously censured by the Charity Commission when their chief executive appeared in Tory election literature.
posted by Abiezer at 3:52 AM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Shivohum, thank you for your courteous response. I don't agree with your arguments, but I always appreciate it when people put things politely.

I will try to explain why I still disagree.

The problem is that this is a very one-sided and misleading way of looking at the process of business. Employers don't just take value from labor; they very much create the context in which labor has any value at all.

Sometimes this is true. Perhaps I did not make myself clear: I view Marx's insights as powerful and useful and more right than, say, libertarianism, but they are not exclusive. Other things are sometimes also true or even more important. It's just that I think that Marx is highly relevant to our present situation in the West.

Also, I do not think that employers deserve all, or even most, of the credit for creating the context in which wealth is created. Value is created in society in a lot of different ways, not all of it by business.

In fact, history is full of examples where employers made a lot of money by taking over things they did not create, appropriating value that was nurtured and grown by other forces - the government, hobbies, religion, public education (schools or university research), social traditions, public land etc.

In practice, employers get far more from the immense investment of education and socialisation performed by parents and public school teachers than they do from sending their employees on training courses. I am sure we can all think of examples where employers effectively stole the work or innovations of their employees, or got something for far less than its worth. And at the moment, America is in the middle of a "jobless recovery", where employers are not hiring more people, they are squeezing more labour out of those who are already employed - and generating profits as a result.

Even if employers are responsible for most of the context of wealth creation in our current society (and I still do not think that is the case), then that is not because of the inherent brilliance of the sort of people who become employers. It is because we, as a society, through our government, have allowed them to take over those roles.

We have allowed them to do this because they argue that "private enterprise" can do it better than anyone else. But the evidence is mounting that, in many cases, it cannot. And when it fails, or becomes corrupt, or leads to rich men abusing powers they have been granted or permitted to acquire by common consent - by, say, not delivering healthcare to those who need it in an efficient way and so causing the deaths and suffering of hundreds of thousands of people - well, then, I think we are entitled to criticise them and maybe start talking about whether or not setting society up in this way is really such a great idea.

Class interest may be a factor, but it is swamped by much more important variables like morality, technology, and the globalization.

Class interest is clearly only one of a range of factors. But it is a factor. It also reflects an underlying economic reality and an underlying shared interest. And particularly at the top of society, the rich seem to me to act as if they have a very clear idea of what laws will serve their interests as a group.

Capitalism doesn't seem to require authoritarianism. Communism does. It requires totalitarian regimes because it goes so much against human nature.

Throughout the Twentieth Century, America supported dictator regimes in order to "contain" the spread of Communism.

I suspect that you would not argue that that proves that Capitalism requires authoritarianism. Likewise, I do not think that because there were dictators who called themselves communists that that somehow means we should not consider the idea that maybe more than a few people ought to own the means of production.

North Korea calls itself a "People's Republic". It is not. The Nazis called themselves "national socialists". They were not socialists - in fact, they were assisted into power by capitalists who feared that the Communists would acquire power.

Capitalism actually has a long history of dallying with fascists. Henry Ford proudly displayed the Iron Cross awarded to him by the Nazis. Interestingly enough, a number of wealthy businessmen in the 1930s plotted to overthrow FDR using a fascist veteran's organisation.

So I think any ideology can tend towards authoritarianism.

As a dear friend of mine often says, the problem isn't capitalists or communists, the problem is bastards. It doesn't matter what colour hat the bastard in question is wearing at the time he commits his acts of bastardry: people have been dressing their claims to power up in the clothes of goodness and righteousness since before the written word.

But some people are beginning to think that the best way to prevent or control future acts of bastardlike behaviour is to empower more people, by giving them not just a vote but greater ownership of the wealth our society produces. Everything depends on execution and good fortune, of course, but I happen to think that this is a good idea and worth supporting.
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:39 AM on June 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


So, you're saying that people who aren't smart enough to wear a coat when they leave at 2am to work outside in cool weather should be given complete new wardrobes by their employers?

No, IAmABroom, I'm clearly saying that you would have felt very cold on the Queen's pageant wearing just a shirt and a light plastic poncho down by the Thames, especially at 4am when their shift started. I don't understand which comment you think you were reading.

Seriously, this is ridiculous.

Not it isn't. What is ridiculous is that you don't seem to mind at all these people were lured on false pretence of paid employment, only to be threatened into working a gruelling, unpaid, 14+ hour shift while the company/charity that hired them did the very bare minimum to look after them and kept them in what I can only describe as inhuman and possibly illegal conditions.

You're mock outrage over the issue of the poncho only serves to highlight the callous disregard you have for these people. Get some fucking perspective, you sound completely inhuman.
posted by axon at 6:39 AM on June 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


shivohum: "
This is the argument that apologists of all failed ideologies make. To say that no ideology has a monopoly on horror obscures the very real differences between ideologies. Communism has produced the greatest amount of evil in the 20th century of any ideology by far. Left-wing intellectuals in the 20th century emphatically supported the USSR and other communist regimes even as the evidence of their crimes grew. They made a colossal, horrific mistake. They valued their smugly-built tower of doctrine too highly, and it was smashed to the ground. The first step to creating something new and better is for the left-wing to admit that. To try to suddenly divorce the word communism from its monstrous failures is ahistorical and a form of denial.
"

1) This is no longer the 20th century.
2) A majority of "left-wing intellectuals" (and hey, even left-wing non-intellectuals) repudiate Stalin and the Soviet Union and Mao Zedong Thought (and most assuredly whatever travesty Juche is considered to be).
3) They MADE a colossal mistake. Past tense (see parts 1 and 2)
4) "Valued" (again - past tense).
5) "The first step is to admit that." We have. It seems that you are the one who is clinging into some view that the past that was is currently in existence, looking at the "left wing intellectuals" of then and not the "left wing intellectuals" now.

I'm running late, and I could go on (I wish I could), but I hope you get the point...
posted by symbioid at 6:46 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Move on, nothing to see here - Mr Cameron has assured us that everything's fine. Steady as she goes. We shall continue to re-arrange the deckchairs...
posted by ntrifle at 8:19 AM on June 6, 2012


These isolated incidents just keep occurring!
posted by Abiezer at 8:30 AM on June 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


You seem unaware of the very basic distinctions that Marx drew between the means of production and the factors of production. More worryingly, you seem to think that Marx thought that capital was the same thing as the means of production. Or maybe that's what you're saying. Not sure.

I don't think you can totally blame anyone for being a little unclear about Marx's terminology, since he was notoriously imprecise about some of these things. And then of course there's the issue of translation. But let's say:

Factors of production: land, labor, capital
Means of production: the tools and raw materials needed to create products (including land)
Capital: money used to purchase things that will then be sold for more money

Marx's argument: the value of goods consist in the labor it took to produce them. Capitalists, meaning those who own the means of production, make profit by taking the surplus value from labor (the value the labor creates beyond what it takes to keep the worker alive). They can do this because they have monopoly control over the means of production and can therefore coerce workers into obedience.

My argument is just one of the standard arguments against the labor theory of value: that the chief value of labor does not just come from labor, but from its organization and adaptation to the market, including entrepreneurial risk-taking, management, vision, delay of gratification, and decision-making.

Also I'm asserting that the "means of production" are primarily mental in nature: that they consist far less in physical objects than in the intelligence required to organize those physical objects along with labor to produce things. Thus capitalists don't just usurp the means of production as if these are just objects lying around -- the means only exist in the hands of those intelligent enough to make them sing.

---

We have allowed them to do this because they argue that "private enterprise" can do it better than anyone else. But the evidence is mounting that, in many cases, it cannot.

The problem is that there's not much evidence that government does a lot better. In the cases where private enterprise fails, it's often in areas where there is heavy government intervention. The health care market in the US is extremely regulated and distorted by government tax distortion, guild arrangements, pharmaceutical regulation. Would private enterprise be able to solve some of these problems without that intervention? We'll never know.

But some people are beginning to think that the best way to prevent or control future acts of bastardlike behaviour is to empower more people, by giving them not just a vote but greater ownership of the wealth our society produces.

The problem is that a concentration of wealth can be quite helpful. The poor and middle classes basically consume their money. Only the rich have the ability to invest it, and they have the incentive to invest it productively (so that they can make a profit), and that's what increases productivity in society over time.
posted by shivohum at 8:50 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope you get the point

I get the point, but there is still a small minority of recalcitrant communists -- or else new recruits -- who haven't gotten the news.
posted by shivohum at 8:52 AM on June 6, 2012


My argument is just one of the standard arguments against the labor theory of value: that the chief value of labor does not just come from labor, but from its organization and adaptation to the market, including entrepreneurial risk-taking, management, vision, delay of gratification, and decision-making.


If you read the first volume of Capital, you'll see how Marx pretty effectively demolishes this argument.

The problem is that a concentration of wealth can be quite helpful. The poor and middle classes basically consume their money. Only the rich have the ability to invest it, and they have the incentive to invest it productively (so that they can make a profit), and that's what increases productivity in society over time.

I would recommend thinking a little more about how those concentrations of wealth come into being. Marx's chapter on Primitive Accumulation (twenty-six, I believe) would help here.

FYI, insinuating that people who advocate Marxist economic or historical theory are "communists" (recalcitrant, recently recruited, or otherwise) does not really lend credibility to your own arguments. Most of the actual revolutionary "communists" I know (mostly a bunch of ex-punks involved in ISO, the Fourth International, or various other Marxist-Leninist factions) have actually a rather poor grasp of Marxism.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:27 AM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile in the real world...

The five previous companies ran by the person who runs the company involved in this never got round to doing anything as mundane as keeping accounts...

And the "charity" which sent the job seekers their way is run by a Conservative peer Baroness Stedham-Scott.
posted by ntrifle at 9:28 AM on June 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


(to make clear - my 'real world' jibe is not aimed at the poster above - just that we need to get back to the original post - real people being forced to do shitty jobs by shitty companies - something I am really quiet cross about).
posted by ntrifle at 9:33 AM on June 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


QUITE cross...sigh
posted by ntrifle at 9:33 AM on June 6, 2012


Third, and most importantly, capitalism doesn't seem to require authoritarianism. Communism does.

Except when it doesn't.

I'm no communist - I'm a social democrat who is quite interested in how markets work and who believes that markets are a flawed means to distribute resources but (like democracy) still the best of a bad lot and those of us who are concerned about social issues would be better off working on how to mitigate the worst effects of market exchange and capitalism (through social welfare like unemployment benefits and labour organizing) than trying to displace them.

But dismissing all of Marx's thought on economic history and class formation is idiotic. Marx was one of the most important social scientists of all time. Even when he was wrong, what he said was important (just like Freud, most of whose theories have been fully overturned).

I study the development of capitalism in the industrial revolution and the immediate centuries before. Marx is one of the most important early historians of this period. Sometimes I find myself disagreeing with him, other times I find myself coming to conclusions and then looking at Marx and realizing that he had the same thought 150 years earlier (he was much smarter than I am).
posted by jb at 9:35 AM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The problem is that there's not much evidence that government does a lot better. In the cases where private enterprise fails, it's often in areas where there is heavy government intervention.

Private enterprise fails whenever the said thing being produced is a need instead of want. Ipods? Private enterprise does just fine. Housing, food, healthcare, education? Private enterprise does not supply it to all who need it. There is no place on the planet - and no time in history - when private enterprise has fully supplied human needs. It does a very good job at supplying SOME of those needs, but where it fails (for the poorest) than public initiatives must step in.

And countries with the best housing, food, healthcare and education are usually those countries with the most public involvement. Healthcare in the US had less government intervention than other first world countries -- and it has POORER health outcomes (infant mortality, life expectancy) than those first world countries with public healthcare.
posted by jb at 9:53 AM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


axon: "No, IAmABroom, I'm clearly saying that you would have felt very cold on the Queen's pageant wearing just a shirt and a light plastic poncho down by the Thames, especially at 4am when their shift started. I don't understand which comment you think you were reading.
The one in which you suggested that people going to work in the cold without any protection from the cold is a reasonable thing to do.
Seriously, this is ridiculous.

Not it isn't. What is ridiculous is that you don't seem to mind at all these people were lured on false pretence of paid employment, only to be threatened into working a gruelling, unpaid, 14+ hour shift while the company/charity that hired them did the very bare minimum to look after them and kept them in what I can only describe as inhuman and possibly illegal conditions.
I addressed the issue of the false pretences above; you are falsely putting words in my mouth, I didn't address it at all in the quote you're referring to.
You're mock outrage over the issue of the poncho only serves to highlight the callous disregard you have for these people. Get some fucking perspective, you sound completely inhuman.
"Your", please.

Get some fucking grammar; you sound completely hysterical.

What I actually sound like is that I care very much about the fraudulent abuse of the workers. I just think the article goes too far. And you, farther yet.

You see, this is complicated, because it occurs in the real world, not the nice black-and-white world of your pretty ideals. The company was certainly at fault for some things, if the facts reported are accurate. I'm just not sure that the story isn't exaggerated; I dislike it when journalists do that.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:20 PM on June 6, 2012


BTW, why are we even discussing these UK laborers? Isn't this FPP about the validity of Karl Marx' philosophies, and whether or not that makes Metafilter a pinko Commie heaven?
posted by IAmBroom at 12:22 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here is an appropriate footnote from the works of my favorite Marxist science fiction author, Jack Vance:
SLU: Standard Labor-value Unit; the monetary unit of the Gaean Reach, defined as the value of an hour of unskilled labor under standard conditions. The unit supersedes all other monetary bases, in that it derives from the single invariable commodity of the human universe: toil.

The Domains of Koryphon
posted by y2karl at 12:57 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The one in which you suggested that people going to work in the cold without any protection from the cold is a reasonable thing to do.
To repeat, because you don't appear capable of reading basic English: I'm clearly saying that you would have felt very cold on the Queen's pageant wearing just a shirt and a light plastic poncho down by the Thames, especially at 4am when their shift started.

I don't understand which comment you think you were reading. If you have a quote from me saying any more please feel free to copy-and-paste it.
You see, this is complicated, because it occurs in the real world, not the nice black-and-white world of your pretty ideals. I'm just not sure that the story isn't exaggerated; I dislike it when journalists do that.
I don't understand how the version of the events in the article are any more black-and-white than yours, just because you choose to selectively disbelieve parts of it based on nothing more than your reckon. Do you have any actual evidence that contradicts the article? Or is your inability to believe reports in broadsheet newspapers simply informed by your unpleasant, black-and-white world view and nasty ideals?
posted by axon at 1:42 PM on June 6, 2012


We mustn't forget that the Communists betrayed the Spanish Revolution.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:07 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you read the first volume of Capital, you'll see how Marx pretty effectively demolishes this argument.

As far as I can tell, that's not the conclusion of most scholars. I believe his labor theory of value is almost universally considered dead wrong, for many of the reasons that I cite.

Most of the actual revolutionary "communists" I know (mostly a bunch of ex-punks involved in ISO, the Fourth International, or various other Marxist-Leninist factions) have actually a rather poor grasp of Marxism.

That is like saying Christians shouldn't be confused with small minority of people who actually know and follow the teachings of the Bible. That might be technically true, but you can't really expect anyone to change the way the words are used. By usage, Marxist = Communist. If someone is a Marxist in some more delicate sense, they're going to have to specify that themselves or invent some new less confusing term.

---

It does a very good job at supplying SOME of those needs, but where it fails (for the poorest) than public initiatives must step in.

Well, but those public initiatives are also problematic. They can create moral hazard, create a breeding ground for graft and corruption, impose dead weight costs, dampen incentives to produce, mire innovation in nets of regulation, and create entrenched bureaucracies with built-in constituencies who vote to keep them funded regardless of whether they're achieving their goals or not. Not to say that you can do without government, but it is hardly an obvious solution, even where private enterprise is "inadequate." The medicine has lots of side effects, and often it is worse than the disease.

Marx was one of the most important social scientists of all time. Even when he was wrong, what he said was important (just like Freud, most of whose theories have been fully overturned).

Oh, I have no doubt that Marx was important and influential (even when what he said was wrong). I'm just skeptical of anyone who calls themselves a Marxist.

(just like Freud, most of whose theories have been fully overturned).

Actually, not true. A lot of what Freud said is simply hard to test, a lot of it has been confirmed, and some of it has been disconfirmed. His central concepts (defense mechanisms, the unconscious, transference, the influence of childhood experience with parents, the import of sexuality) have stood the test of time.

Though Freud and Marx are similar in one regard: they both spoke in lofty, prophetic terms that involve so much charismatic jargon that they can be interpreted in a bajillion ways. So it's often possible to see what you want to see in them, I think. And that's their appeal and their great vulnerability.
posted by shivohum at 5:19 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell, that's not the conclusion of most scholars. I believe his labor theory of value is almost universally considered dead wrong, for many of the reasons that I cite.

It's the other way round; so effectively did Marx (and others) show the implications of the then-standard labour theory of value (it's not his invention from whole cloth, see Ricardo, Smith etc.) that it was felt necessary to abandon classical political economy and lionise marginalism to counter-act the political consequences. So the LTV might not be given much credence by the current crop of 'vulgar economists', but it's not been dislodged from a proper critique of political economy, which is what Marx was giving.

Though Freud and Marx are similar in one regard: they both spoke in lofty, prophetic terms that involve so much charismatic jargon that they can be interpreted in a bajillion ways.
You really should stop making these sort of claims about someone you have clearly never read. A large chunk of Capital is number-crunching British government statistical Blue Books; many of his other pieces like the 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon are considered masterpieces of the essayists' art. He wrote constantly of the dynamics of the world around him and had no little or time for 'recipes for the cook-shops of the future' - a phrase he used responding to criticism that all he does is analyse facts.
posted by Abiezer at 6:09 PM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm probably an idiot for stepping into this discussion with this particular offering, but I'd suggest that the aspects of Marxist thought captured by Althusser (no longer a favorite of anyone, so far as I can tell) in Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus, and particularly the mechanism of interpellation, are useful intellectual equipment for anyone trying to make sense of today's socioeconomic politics--entirely without needing to buy into the Marxist teleology of history.

There's an irony in that having vanquished Communism in its overt geopolitical form, and thus seemingly disproved that teleology, late Capitalism in all of its unrestrained triumphalism has done more to validate the core criticisms of Marxist thought than actual Marxists ever could.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:05 AM on June 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


that the chief value of labor does not just come from labor, but from its organization and adaptation to the market, including entrepreneurial risk-taking, management, vision, delay of gratification, and decision-making.

It's a wholly question begging argument, as far as I can see. "Capital includes the labour done by capitalists which is special because it is the sort of labour done in the name of capital". In trying to conflate capital as an organising principle with the labour done as a result of that organisation, you undermine your argument The assertion whether the kind of organisation done in the name of capital is effective precisely that question we are trying to address. What does your argument amount to apart from "not communism because capitalism"?
posted by howfar at 6:39 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


You really should stop making these sort of claims about someone you have clearly never read.

And you might want to consider reading Marx's most influential piece, the Communist Manifesto, and ask yourself whether or not it includes charismatic jargon and lofty and prophetic language.

Marx is Hegel's progeny, and Hegel's vision was a mystical vision.

---

I'd suggest that the aspects of Marxist thought captured by Althusser (no longer a favorite of anyone, so far as I can tell) in Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus

Thanks, I'll take a look.

---

The assertion whether the kind of organisation done in the name of capital is effective precisely that question we are trying to address.

I don't really follow you. The point is that the capitalist class is typically in the position that it is in precisely because it has shown itself capable of effectively managing that capital, of growing it -- if anyone else could do it better, it would absolutely be in the interests of the capitalists to give capital to those people for management. It's only going to make the capitalists more money! That's exactly what entrepreneurship is, and there are billions of dollars looking for good entrepreneurs to invest in.

The related point is that if you simply gave the means of production to people incapable of managing it effectively, it would simply lose most of its worth. See: Zimbabwe and the redistribution of land there out of the hands of white farmers (the "capitalist class"). Result? Famine.
posted by shivohum at 8:36 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


snuffleupagus, I'm a huge fan of Althusser, as it goes. I have a layman's account of Althusserian overdetermination that involves a highly involved cricket metaphor. Sadly, employing it frequently involves explaining cricket, and I end up wondering if it would not be easier to explain Structuralist Marxism first and then using that as a metaphor to help people understand cricket.
posted by howfar at 10:52 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't really follow you. The point is that the capitalist class is typically in the position that it is in precisely because it has shown itself capable of effectively managing that capital, of growing it -- if anyone else could do it better, it would absolutely be in the interests of the capitalists to give capital to those people for management. It's only going to make the capitalists more money

Fair enough, I had kind of botched those sentences. What I'm getting at is that your conflation of the interests of capital with the ability of capitalists leads you to an erroneous conclusion. The fact that the capitalist class is interested in making money (self-evident) is not the same thing as it being good, at any point in history, at the kind of labour that is required to do it; capital is not distributed from generation to generation largely on the basis of ability, but rather largely on the basis of heredity.

Even if we were to accept your highly debatable conjecture about the ability of the capitalist class, you would still have to demonstrate that the interests of the capitalist class are the same, in general, as those of the labouring class. The vast inequality, and in particular the number of people living in absolute poverty globally suggests that the world is organised in a manner that increasingly serves a few at the expense of the many. Saying that a rising tide raises all ships is a weak argument when so many people are sinking.

And you might want to consider reading Marx's most influential piece, the Communist Manifesto, and ask yourself whether or not it includes charismatic jargon and lofty and prophetic language.

Marx is Hegel's progeny, and Hegel's vision was a mystical vision.


You really need to be a bit careful here. While the Communist Manifesto is widely read (because people generally are into the whole brevity thing), it is of hardly any significance in the world of Marxist scholarship. It is, after all, a piece of populist writing, not an exercise in history, economics or philosophy. One might as well say that Richard Dawkins is a bad and unimportant evolutionary biologist because one dislikes his views on religion. The topics are closely connected but they are not the same thing. The Communist Manifesto has, to the best of my recollection, never been discussed as the topic of any class I have taken on Marxism.

The point about Hegel is sort of irrelevant, and I would argue that it's largely uninformed about Hegel too. Much of the machinery of the Hegelian dialectic is intensely practical, if directed toward a realm into which empiricism can never intrude. Marx's materialist dialectic exists just as much in opposition to Hegelian idealism as it does as an echo to it.

I rather get the sense that you are disparaging thinkers as meaningless and irrelevant without having spent the time necessary to get to grips with them. It's up to you, of course, we all have limited time in our lives.

And no, I'm not a communist. I'm a sceptic about ideological commitments to economic systems as panaceas for hideously complex problems. It's one of the reasons that Althusser is so compelling. His account of Marxism is one that resists simple minded reductivism while preserving the central conceptual apparatus of the dialectic largely intact.
posted by howfar at 11:17 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fact that the capitalist class is interested in making money (self-evident) is not the same thing as it being good, at any point in history, at the kind of labour that is required to do it; capital is not distributed from generation to generation largely on the basis of ability, but rather largely on the basis of heredity.

Well, there is a good deal of social mobility in developed industrial societies. It's true that pure rags-to-riches stories are rare, but that's in large part because the ability to manage capital well is associated with having the right contacts, the right education, the right knowledge networks, and those things naturally flow through families.

On average, the capitalist class absolutely does have the best ability to manage capital. This is easily seen. The money that capitalists have does not sit under a bed somewhere. It has to be invested. If it is invested poorly, the money dwindles, and its owners will not be among the wealthy for long. If not, the money grows. At death, the money tends to be split into pieces, so it's difficult for money to last many generations unless the heirs themselves are good at managing it (or at hiring people who are good at managing it). We're not living in an era of landed gentry where the estate gets past in toto to the firstborn.

So there's every incentive for capitalists to invest wisely; they have every resource available to do so; and if they do not do it correctly, the mantle will pass on to someone else in fairly short order.

A great entrepreneur can always get money: just look around and see the people who started Facebook or the other great entrepreneurs of the last 30 years. Money flows towards them like an avalanche from capitalists.

you would still have to demonstrate that the interests of the capitalist class are the same, in general, as those of the labouring class. The vast inequality, and in particular the number of people living in absolute poverty globally suggests that the world is organised in a manner that increasingly serves a few at the expense of the many.

See, I don't think it increasingly serves the few at the expense of the many; quite the contrary. Capitalist reforms have lifted 400 million people out of poverty in China. India has a middle class larger than the population of the US. Never have the poor and racial and sexual minorities been better treated in America and the developed world than today. That would not be possible without the tremendous prosperity that capitalism has brought into existence. Meanwhile the remaining communist countries are variations on a theme of nightmare.

That's not to say that there are no problems, or that distribution of economic rewards is not a contentious issue. But it is to say that labor benefits bigtime from the increased pool of capital that capitalism creates. And far-seeing capitalists (like Teddy Roosevelt) saw that sustaining capitalism over time means developing human potential, even in the poor, and that does open a role for the government -- so again, the idea of class conflict as driving everything is very narrow. Plenty of arch-capitalists -- the Warren Buffets and Bill Gateses -- want a more equitable society.

I rather get the sense that you are disparaging thinkers as meaningless and irrelevant without having spent the time necessary to get to grips with them.

I'm not saying they're meaningless and irrelevant (certainly not Hegel). I am saying, however, that Marx's ideas produced catastrophe, so -- by their fruits you shall know them -- his ideas ought to be treated with an appropriate degree of extra-extra-extra-skepticism.
posted by shivohum at 11:47 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe you could round up anybody who seems a bit commie and have them shot, American backed fascist regime style?
posted by Artw at 11:56 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


if you simply gave the means of production to people incapable of managing it effectively, it would simply lose most of its worth. See: Zimbabwe and the redistribution of land there out of the hands of white farmers (the "capitalist class"). Result? Famine.

The land was not redistributed to the agricultural labourers, but to black elites. We have no idea what would have happened had land reform been carried out in a sensible manner.
posted by jb at 11:57 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


See, I don't think it increasingly serves the few at the expense of the many; quite the contrary. Capitalist reforms have lifted 400 million people out of poverty in China. India has a middle class larger than the population of the US.

Interestingly, both China and India opened their markets very slowly and continue to have a lot of active government in their markets. In contrast, countries who have followed World Bank and IMF recommendations on market reform have done much more poorly economically. Even so, many people are worried that the economic growth has been too rapid and too uneven -- particularly as regards growing inequality in China which is both economically bad and socially unstable.

Moreover, capitalism is only one form of market exchange; market exchange pre-dates capitalism in most places in the world. For most of the 20th century, the first world has had what I would call "mitigated Capitalism" - a capitalist socio-economic structure off-set by conscious social policy and collective action (taxes, social welfare, unions). This is in contrast to a more "pure" capitalism of the 19th century or the attempts to strip away these mitigations since c1980.

It's not a choice between capitalism & market exchange or communism & central command. There is a universe of other possibilities. And the best seem to be somewhere in the middle - a market-based economy with low concentrations of capital (smaller businesses) and not much social division between labour and capital.
posted by jb at 12:08 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


And you might want to consider reading Marx's most influential piece, the Communist Manifesto, and ask yourself whether or not it includes charismatic jargon and lofty and prophetic language.
So there we have it, you haven't read him and you think that's what his writing is. Do you do this with other thinkers? Maybe musicians too? Octopuses' Garden is a rubbish song and I can't understand why people like the Beatles.
posted by Abiezer at 4:13 PM on June 7, 2012


Molly Prince replies in the Grauniad.

Comments are worth reading.

Also, Abezier you are making me laugh. Strawberry Fields is the rubbish song and etc etc...
posted by marienbad at 4:35 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


We would shout, and swim about...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:40 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Marxist-Lennonists! On my MetaFilter!

She's got a bare-faced cheek has Molly, I'll give her that. Read an interesting comment on another forum breaking down how they make the money out of the government cash they get for placing a trainee, looked convincing.
posted by Abiezer at 4:44 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Marxist-Lennonists!

Did someone upthread quote Groucho? Must've missed it...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:41 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


This post is being endlessly requoted on the web, but I can't find the original source for it:
: June 5, 2012 at 10:20 pm
I received “training” from CP UK a few years ago.
Let me start by saying the
Company is a joke! I Enrolled on a close protection (CP) course as unfortunately the SIA do not deem the Royal Military Police Close Protection unit; where I qualified as worthy of there qualification yet the foreign and commonwealth office were quite happy for me to deploy to various embassy’s around the world. Anyway to gain my civilian SIA badge I had to attend an SIA recognised training programme for a 3-4 day course paid for by the MoD.
I arrived at a tired out former shop on a back street in Hindley Wigan First impression was not a good one and I thought things can only get better!!
I was ushered to a small make shift class room on the first floor to be greeted by the instructor (more about them later) who introduced himself as a right hard tw@t (no joke)! Also in the class
room were other students who had paid upwards of £2000 for a full CP course lasting in the region of 2 weeks. There was a pretty even split in the room half were pumped up tough guys bored of working the doors and the other half job seekers on some kind of a grant paid by the government.
My course began by the instructor asking my previous qualification (which made him look silly) before sending me out with four other students to teach them how to do a reconnaissance visit. Not correct me if I am wrong but surely that was his job!!
Each venue I visited were aware of the company. One such venue was the Lowry hotel in Manchester. I spoke with the head of security t the hotel who was well are of the company and Molly Prince. In his words he told me “you seem like a nice fella who knows the job, if I were you I would get the hell away from that company and if Molly Prince turns up here with here doormen again pushing our customers out of lifts etc I will bar the company from using this hotel for good!!

And so this went on…
On the final day Prince ordered a range rover be hired as she would be a VIP for the evening while the students were put through the paces and tested. She was driven around Manchester with a friend and a team of body guards (students/doormen). She shopped in the town centre before being driven back to the 5* Lowry where she changed.
Her and her friend were then taken back in to Manchester where she went on the p!ss until the small hours before being driven back.

That was the final test for the students CPUK now sanctioned them as CP operators worthy of an SIA badge! Better still Prince enjoyed a night out costing thousands all paid for by the students fees!!

I honestly can’t believe this outfit is still running, and am even more shocked they are contemplating allowing them to provide staff for the Olympics.

What a joke !!!
Also floating around are what purport to be testimonials from happy sla... volunteers:
Robert Cooke, 30, from Plymouth:

“Organisers found somewhere for us to shelter, and said that if any of us wanted to get into our sleeping bags to keep warm, then we could. Most of us just stayed up chatting. It was a good laugh, and we had access to the portable loos the whole time. They have paid for all the training for my licence and an NVQ in crowd safety. They gave us boots worth £80, and a uniform. We worked out that what they’ve spent is the equivalent of us being paid £45 an hour.”

Kirsty Nicholls, 23, also from Plymouth:

“I would like to thank CPUK for the amazing experience I was a part of this weekend. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. We were treated with the utmost respect and highly praised for the work we had done. I personally volunteered to do all three days work as I found the experience incredibly pleasurable. I look forward to a long career with CPUK.”

Markus Hanks, another volunteer, said:

“Thanks for a great time at the Diamond Jubilee. Brilliant company to work for, great staff, brilliant atmosphere between everyone, looking forward to working with Close Protection UK again at the London 2012 Olympics. I’m supporting you and the Close Protection UK 110%.”
Which I'm sure we all find astoundingly convincing.
posted by Grangousier at 1:05 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, you're saying that people who aren't smart enough to wear a coat when they leave at 2am to work outside in cool weather should be given complete new wardrobes by their employers?

Admittedly I haven't worn a uniform since school, but I imagine that if their coats weren't part of it, they couldn't wear one. Also, outdoor weather gear isn't cheap - how would an unemployed person be able to get themselves a decent coat for outdoor work? So this '£45' an hour was basically people being asked to work to fund the clothing that the company told them they had to wear, or forgo their qualification. Even a minimum wage job in a supermarket or McDonalds will provide you your uniform for free if you bring your own shoes.
posted by mippy at 4:42 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is that typical of government work, though? My understanding is that in the US generally police, firemen, military personnel buy their own uniforms. And the merch carried by uniform stores (I went to a uniformed elementary school) suggests that at least some employers of uniformed workers don't supply their clothes.

Not that what was done in this situation is appropriate, given the strings attached. I'm just wondering if its all that far from normative expectations.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:22 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


(in the UK)
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:23 AM on June 8, 2012


I definitely think that not being a Marxist has nothing to do with "not paying attention.

I guess I'm just getting to old to handle those triple-negatives.
posted by DarkForest at 6:27 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm just wondering if its all that far from normative expectations.

There is a statutory instrument in place governing the provision of protective clothing at work, as mentioned above. The only question appears to be whether an appropriate coat would fall into the disapplication for "ordinary working clothes and uniforms which do not specifically protect the health and safety of the wearer". It seems unlikely, given that the only reason for providing such a coat could be protection from the weather and related risks to health and safety. There is, however, no case law on the matter as far as Westlaw is capable of telling me. My view is that it is hard to make sense of the regulations unless they have effect in situations like this.

The regulations would not, in fact apply here, as there was no contract of employment, but they do form a sound basis for a normative expectation.
posted by howfar at 7:35 AM on June 8, 2012


I suppose the apposite example would be provision of uniform to those participating in Workfare, given that they are working alongside paid/contracted employees. I had an interview with both McDonalds and ASDA as a student and during both I was told that uniform would be provided without a cost to the employee; you had to provide your own shoes of a particular type, and if you did not have suitable footwear you could purchase them from the company by way of a salary deduction (which makes sense if you;ve just started work and don't have the funds to buy the type of shoes they required).

Supermarket workers who have to collect trollies in the car park are given branded gilets/jackets that are clearly part of uniform - my question was whether, if such an item was not considered part of uniform, whether the employee would be allowed to wear it on the job. I've never seen, say, an ASDA employee wearing anything but the standard issue green fleece for outdoor work and I wonder whether, if they requested to do so, they would be allowed to wear wet weather gear. I don't know anyone who's worked in a supermarket since about 2005 and health and safety legislation may have changed since then, but if a company mandates a uniform they are pretty strict about what may or may not be worn with it.

If you are working for free, and far from home, dependent on the 'employer's' transport and told you need to do this to qualify, and they tell you that you either wear a transparent, temporary poncho that doesn't cover up the uniform or go home (because your coat is not standard issue or uniform compliant) then your options are pretty limited. Which is why I am wondering what the case is here.
posted by mippy at 8:55 AM on June 8, 2012


I suspect that the company in question is nowhere near organised or competent enough to come to a firm conclusion either way.

The reason I think this is important is that I suspect that this is what The Big Society actually looks like in action - tasks that ought to be addressed by responsible bodies large enough that they have a coherent overview of the situation, instead hived off to charities run by friends of the ruling regime, which skim a lot of the attendant money off for themselves before passing the responsibility for the implementation on to an archipelago of increasingly desperate companies (along with a fraction of the money spent on the job), who devolve the work again to a casuaiised workforce who are either unpaid or paid so little they might as well be (£2.40 an hour is more an insult than a wage), who are kept in check either by fear of losing their benefits, or vague promises of work that will actually pay them in the future. If I were an investigative journalist, that's where I'd be looking - charities like Tomorrow's People and who they subcontract to for what work (after seeing whether I could track down Robert Cooke, Kirsty Nicholls or Markus Hanks - I did manage to find a Kirsty Nicholls from Plymouth on Twitter, though there are just generic tweets which stop about a month ago and immediately after I looked at her stream I was followed by a spam bot. I have no idea what any of that signifies, other than that I ought to be less stalky).

The thing that worries me is that this is what the NHS will look like in a few years time.
posted by Grangousier at 9:25 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Molly Prince has a conviction for perverting the course of justice; someone highlighted one of the more damning anecdotes from this article that looks at the wider workfare picture:
"I said I'd only do work experience if there were vacancies at the end," he said. "But at every point Seetec were like, 'They employ people all the time.' And as soon as I went into Argos, the people there said: 'There are no jobs at the end of this.'" He said he tried to leave the placement, but was told that if he did, his benefit would be stopped.

In his first week, he worked for 30 hours ("10 hours more than anyone who was getting paid to work there"), before contacting Seetec and discovering he was only meant to put in 16. "I was doing the bit where you get the item from the warehouse and put it on the shelf, for [the customer] to collect it," he said. When he arrived, he was one of four people on jobseekers' allowance doing supposed work experience; three weeks later, there were six such people, working a variety of shifts, out of a workforce of between 15 and 20.

One man sent to Argos by Jobcentre Plus, he said, had been working unpaid for 30 hours a week in a six-week placement. "No one who was paid was getting overtime any more," he said. "Everyone was being cut down to four-hour shifts. A guy who worked there told me that. The staff were very demoralised that we were taking up so much potential shift work."
posted by Abiezer at 7:58 PM on June 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's kind of scary how many communists are on MeFi.
posted by shivohum at 7:56 PM on June 5


Oh man, somebody exhumed McCarthy's mummy and shoved a banger up its arse. Deep joy.
posted by Decani at 12:52 PM on June 10, 2012 [4 favorites]






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