[Shadow chancellor vows party will force ‘irreversible shift in
wealth and power’ with most leftwing manifesto in decades.]
[https://portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE LABOR 

 MCDONNELL: LABOUR WILL GIVE POWER TO WORKERS THROUGH ‘OWNERSHIP
FUNDS’   [https://portside.org/node/18178] 

 

 Phillip Inman 
 September 8, 2018
The Guardian
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/08/john-mcdonnell-labour-proposal-workers-ownership-funds]


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 _ Shadow chancellor vows party will force ‘irreversible shift in
wealth and power’ with most leftwing manifesto in decades. _ 

 John McDonnell: ‘People are saying “we want change”, and so
they are willing to look at radical solutions, and that gives us the
opening.’ , Wiktor Szymanowicz/Rex/Shutterstock 

 

All private companies employing more than 250 people would have to set
up “ownership funds” giving workers financial stakes in their
companies and increasing powers to influence how they are run, under
radical plans announced by Labour as it prepares for a possible
general election
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/feb/11/brexit-john-mcdonnell-democratic-engagement-second-eu-referendum] within
months.

The far-reaching proposals, which would empower millions of workers
across the private sector, were unveiled by the shadow
chancellor, John McDonnell
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/john-mcdonnell], in an interview
with the _Observer_. McDonnell– who has been working throughout the
summer on election planning, with little break– says the ideas will
be at the heart of Labour’s drive to deliver greater equality by
forcing an “irreversible shift in wealth and power in favour of
working people”.

McDonnell intends to introduce the necessary legislation in his first
year as chancellor. He will outline the proposals, which could mean
workers receiving dividends to boost their incomes, in a speech to the
TUC conference in Manchester on Tuesday.

He will be speaking ahead of what he believes will be a tumultuous six
months in British politics, with the Tory government tearing itself
apart and imploding over Brexit, probably triggering another general
election. If and when that happens, he says Labour will be ready with
the most leftwing manifesto in decades, building on the radical
platform set out at the 2017 snap election
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/16/labour-manifesto-analysis-key-points-pledges].
New ideas will be put forward to boost equality, strengthen
communities and improve public services.

“The opportunity is there for us. I think the government will fall
apart in the next six months almost certainly,” he says. “When
they come back in the autumn with whatever they think will be their
Brexit deal, they will rip themselves apart, and my argument is that
they should move on and let us get on with the negotiations, and if
not, call a general election. They might try to stagger on but by the
spring of next year they will fall apart.”

The shadow chancellor managed only a few days away with his family on
the Norfolk broads over the summer, a sign that the party machine has
spent the break getting itself on to election high alert.
Unsurprisingly, McDonnell is dismissive of Labour moderates, including
Tony Blair, who argued on Friday
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/07/tony-blair-not-sure-labour-can-be-wrestled-back-from-corbyn]that
the electorate would recoil in horror if the choice at the ballot box
were between a leftwing prospectus from Jeremy Corbyn and McDonnell
and a rightwing, pro-Brexit Tory alternative fronted up by the likes
of Boris Johnson. Instead, McDonnell argues that not only working
people but many “middle-class people, and people with degrees” are
yearning for radicalism and real change because they dislike the
direct“What we are getting back on the doorsteps and in some of our
polling is that the basic fabric of society is falling apart from lack
of investment … from eight years of hard austerity but no light at
the end of the tunnel,” he says. Even the better-off see
“grotesque unfairness within our society” and want that tackled
with radical solutions, he adds.

“Even if you are the wealthiest person in the country, you don’t
want to be stepping over homeless people in your city. You want to
feel secure, and if there are not police on your street you don’t
feel secure. People, I think, are saying, ‘We want change’, and so
they are willing to look at radical solutions, and that gives us the
opening. “All Labour
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/labour] needs to win outright,
he says, is another 5-6% of the vote above its tally last year.

Extending dramatically employees’ ownership of firms is precisely
the kind of idea that McDonnell believes will appeal widely, if not to
company bosses. “What this will ensure is that in large companies,
in addition to rewarding workers with wages, they will reward them
with shares that will go into a pool that will allow them to have an
ownership role.”

He cites a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research
[https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/05/thinktank-calls-for-major-overhaul-of-britains-economy],
published last week, that floated ideas for giving millions of people
“a greater stake and voice in their workplaces”, boosting
productivity, morale and incentives. The IPPR said “the aim would be
to give more people a share of capital and to spread economic power
and control in the economy by expanding the decision rights of
employees in the management of companies”.

Among the models being examined are ones under which firms would have
to put a percentage of profits into an employee fund that would build
up over time, giving the workforce, through its rising share
ownership, an increasing say in key decisions on how the companies
were run and managed. While workers would not be able to cash in
shares, they could be offered dividends from the fund to boost their
pay.

It was Tony Benn in the early 1980s, McDonnell points out, who first
talked about the need for an “irreversible shift” of power and
wealth towards working people that Labour’s modern-day standard
bearers of the left now hope to deliver.

McDonnell accepts that the anti
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/aug/01/timeline-labour-jeremy-corbyn-antisemitism]semitism
row, 
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/aug/01/timeline-labour-jeremy-corbyn-antisemitism]which
has raged throughout the summer,
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/aug/01/timeline-labour-jeremy-corbyn-antisemitism] has
damaged Labour. “Of course it has, yes. In terms of morale as well.
Of course it has. But we will come through it,” he says. “It has
been distressing, absolutely distressing. Over the last three months
it has been really heartbreaking. The reason it has been distressing
is because you always felt we were an anti-racist party, and that is
what we stand for, and when you have the accusation thrown at you, it
is really disheartening … But when you find there is some substance
to that, it is even more disheartening, and we have to address
that.”

He says he hopes the decision by the national executive committee last
week to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance 
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/04/labour-adopts-ihra-antisemitism-definition-in-full]definition
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/04/labour-adopts-ihra-antisemitism-definition-in-full] of
antisemitism, along with all its examples, will help to rebuild trust
with the Jewish community.

That is not the only argument within the party that has soured the
summer mood. As Labour prepares for its conference in Liverpool, a
series of proposed rule changes backed by local party groups,
including moves that would make it easier to de
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/01/corbynites-labour-rule-changes-remove-mps-hard-left]select
MPs
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/01/corbynites-labour-rule-changes-remove-mps-hard-left],
are causing renewed tension between the parliamentary party and
pro-Corbyn, leftwing elements of the membership. Here, McDonnell seems
to sense danger and clearly wants to avoid more bad feeling. He says
the existing rules on how MPs are reselected are fine as they are, and
suggests he would not back any change that would stoke arguments
further.

Then there is the party’s stance on Brexit, as pressure builds this
weekend from union members for Labour to back a stronger pro-EU,
pro-single market line, and also a “people’s 
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/04/union-call-for-brexit-vote-adds-pressure-on-corbyn-to-follow-suit]vote”
[https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/04/union-call-for-brexit-vote-adds-pressure-on-corbyn-to-follow-suit] (another
referendum). At last year’s conference, a major row was avoided
because no vote of any substance was held. This year, McDonnell says,
there will have to be debates on Brexit policy and on Labour’s
attitude to another referendum.

“There is bound to be a debate, and I would think a vote,” he
says, on both issues.

The people’s vote campaign, he notes, has been “constructive”.
McDonnell is careful neither to rule in nor rule out another
referendum. He wants to keep the party’s mind focused on the prize
of winning power, delivering mass renationalisation, higher taxes for
the better-off and now the empowerment of workers in the private
sector.

“What I have been arguing for is a general election,” he says.
“The Tories have made a complete mess of Brexit negotiations. They
are ripping themselves apart. They should move aside and let us get on
with this, but if they don’t want to move aside, and if we can’t
get a general election, I am saying keep all options open.”

Workers’ power

The roots of Labour’s plan to give workers a say in how their
employer makes decisions lie in an idea put forward by the party’s
37 Co-operative party MPs.

In essence, the scheme forces - or provides strong incentives for -
all major employers to put some of their profits into an employee
fund. This money would be allocated to staff in the form of shares and
would build up over time.

Unlike with the share schemes promoted by Margaret Thatcher in the
1980s, employees would not be able to cash them in or trade them.
Instead, the shares would be held in a trust, and elected trustees
would sit on important committees in the business.

Their purpose would be like that of any shares: to allow shareholders
to influence the direction of the organisation and its day-to-day
behaviour.

Ultimately, the Inclusive Ownership Fund would turn every business
into a John Lewis-style workplace, with internal democratic structures
giving employees greater influence.

It’s unclear whether Labour would favour employees becoming board
members in line with the shareholding they have accumulated, but that
appears to be the direction of travel.

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