Monday, 10 June 2013

Greens and the Banking Crisis - What should be done! (Paper 1 of 3)

Rugby Green Party member – Roger Hills has produced 3 papers to promote an understanding of economics in the Green movement and to suggest how the Green Party can tackle the dominance of finance capitalism – which is responsible for the crisis faced by millions of people in the UK and around the globe.
 Roger and Rugby Green Party welcomes discussion and comment.

City of London - brief history

Two major factors brought about England and then Great Britain/United Kingdom as a world military and financial centre. Stable Government and the discovery of America. Both these are crucial to the growth of the power of the City. The growth of the City is synonymous with the growth of Great Britain and Empire, the defeat in turn of Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler.

The City of London has been a financial centre since before 1066.
Indeed, it was Alfred the Great who oversaw the rebuilding of the City around 886.
William 1st made a deal with it to leave it independent, with its own freehold rights, ancient liberties and militia. The king even had to disarm on entering the city. The City was excluded from the Domesday Book! Thus the City allied itself to the monarch directly.

Throughout the last millennium it has remained largely independent and monarchs and governments have allowed it to be so, just as long as it stumped up with taxes and loans. Henry 1st in 1189 allowed the City to appoint its own mayor with his approval and by 1215 it was allowed to elect one.

Famously William Walworth, lord mayor of London, knifed to death Wat Tyler leader of the peasants revolt in 1381.

Much of Britains political structure is borrowed from the City: House of Lords from the Citys Court of Aldermen, House of Commons from the Citys Court of Common Council (the grandmother of all parliaments).
Cardinal Wolsey tried to tax the aristocrats and City.  The City accused him of having the French Pox and breathing on good old King Henry VIII.  His fall from grace was a big success for the King and the City. As a reward and in memory of this success the City is allowed a man in the Houses of Parliament known as the remembrancer. He (Paul Double at the moment) protects the Citys interests in Parliament and actually sits in the House of Commons behind the speaker during sessions.  One of his most recent acts was to oppose the European efforts to rein in the activities of the Hedge Funds.

In the 1600s the enclosure acts caused massive homelessness and many made their way to London. The City refusing the Kings request to look after them shipped them off to Northern Ireland to Londonderry.

The Cromwell revolution at last saw the defeat of the monarchs monopolies over trade and industry. It let loose the freedom of financiers and industrialists to expand their businesses without hindrance and downright robbery by the monarch. This, arguably, was the turning point of English history which shaped not only the future of Britain but the world. Englands and then Britains finance, trade and industry expanded exponentially. 

In 1690, in much need of support after booting out Charles II, William and Mary gave the City of London virtual carte-blanche under statute. After disastrous naval defeats by France, revolutionary action was needed to raise money and build a proper navy. In 1694 the Bank of England was set up as the governments banker. (It remained in private hands until 1946 when it was nationalised.  The effect was as much to strengthen the Citys hold over the government as the governments over the City).

The surge in the development of the Royal Navy and of Empire in the 1700s is now legend. But against King and Parliament, in the 1770s, the City supported the movement for American independence and rejoiced when it succeeded.
And during the long Napoleonic wars while the City funded the war successfully it refused to let the press gangs within its borders.

In 1844 another revolution added impetus to the growth of British trade and industry: the establishment of the limited liability joint stock company. This allowed people to invest without risking their own personal fortune and possessions.

Integral to the whole process was the formation of the British working classes who were the physical and often intellectual power behind the industrial, scientific and trading revolutions. They powered the massive developments in mass political democracy, trade unions, education, health and much else.

In 1884 reformers introduced a bill to merge the City with the rest of London.  A huge slush fund and massive mobilisation ensured the reformers were defeated and smeared. The City had, of course, become the financial centre of worlds biggest ever empire and the pound sterling became the currency of the world.   It was an exclusive club and a place in the City was a key prize for those old Etonian aristocrats who wished not only for a large fortune but who wished to rules huge swathes of the planet.

After two ruinous World Wars and with the decline of empire the City had to find a new role. This came with the Euro-dollar, then deregularisation (1986) under Maggie Thatcher, followed through by Blair and Brown. After slipping behind New York it again became the top financial centre in the world at a price. We shall explore this in the next paper.

The two key points to remember here is first that the growth of the City of London enabled Britain to overthrow the despotic monarchy, develop an empire and defeat its two key enemies in the process: France (1815) USA (1812). As the empire grew the City grew, as did Britains trade and industry.

As the process of industrialisation grew so did a new class of paid workers, manual, skilled and intellectual. This class fought successfully for a massive expansion of democracy and social provision of education, health care, etc.


Paper 2 – out soon.

Rugby Green Party is also carrying these articles on our website and on Face Book

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