If you had tried to suggest to me in 1968 (fifty years ago, with student riots in Britain and France at their height) that in 2018 Great Britain’s two opposing main Parties would be Neoliberals and Neocommunists respectively, I would’ve thought you to be very possibly a slate short on the roof.
No doubt I would’ve replied somewhat pompously, with an acid lemon rind of condescension on the side, that there was a consensus for the mixed economy, and before too long the dinosaurs of shires Toryism and cloth cap Labour would wither away to allow the formation of dominant Social Democratic government.
I certainly didn’t see Reagan coming, and nobody saw Thatcher coming – especially Ted Heath. Labour’s reaction to that forty years ago was to elect Michael Foot leader; after the Torylite of Tony Blair, forty years on the briefly New and now once again sclerotic Labour Party elected Jeremy Corbyn leader.
The British economy is dominated by service industries and retail, with agriculture and manufacturing at near homoaeopathic levels. Right wing globalist “thinkers” tell us this is the future, and Brits are at the cutting edge of it….and in the next breath insist that the ideas of Adam Smith (when the clipper was the fastest transport form on the planet) are the best ideological approach going forward. Or something.
Labour’s answer to this isn’t to tear neoliberal codswallop (from trickling wealth to arid austerity) into tiny shreds of disproven mumbo-jumbo, because Labour knows even less about economics than the fey Oxymorons on the other side of the aisle. No, Labour’s answer is to turn up the volume on virtue-signalling pc, promise the electorate everything and anything, and roll back both nationalisation and trade union law as the means of achieving fiscal rectitude, economic balance and increased productivity….while approaching the housing crisis with let-it-rip immigration.
Labour has no ideas at all on encouraging entrepreneurs, retraining youth, revitalising farming, driving post-Brexit exports, reining in the City and how to make corporate globalism pay its taxes. But nihil desperandum Corbynistas, because palpably, the Tories don’t either: so in the absence of ideas and competence, promises will do.
I’ve blogged endlessly about failed neoliberal ideas – and anyway, the Mayflower is so completely rudderless, it’s hard to see them doing any better at the next dead-heat as they did at the last one. The only strategy they have, it seems to me, is to let people like McDonnell and Abbot keep on giving themselves away, in the hope that the Jeremy of Nazareth image created by Momentum will be somewhat tarnished by 2022.
When Corbyn shot to fame and then held on to his job, I saw him (as I still do in many ways) as a liberal democratic necessity in the face of Cameronian sociopaths. But he’s come further, faster than any of us expected.
Corbynista activists last week easily won all three new seats on the Labour National Executive….but as Stalin cynically remarked, “History is made by those who turn up”. As it happens, 90% of Labour’s membership didn’t – hence another success for the Momentum clique. The new Corbynista majority on the NEC quickly installed Momentum director Christine Shawcroft as chair of its disputes panel (which rules on issues such as allegations of anti-Semitism by party members), ousting incumbent Ann Black.
Purges are on the way, deselection processes are being mapped out, and for the first time in nearly a hundred years, it’s OK to say you’re a communist – primarily, I suspect, because most Corbyn devotees haven’t a clue what communism entails.
So today, I’d like to deal briefly with the poppycock that Marxism is and always has been. Not in a Party political way (for I support no UK Party currently in existence) but to even up the score, given the amount of column inches I’ve devoted to debunking Neoliberal “beliefs” over the years.
Like economic Neoliberalism, Marxism is based on the entirely erroneous idea that, over time, one archaic system of production, distribution and exchange gives way to another…until some kind of perfect synthesis is achieved. At this point, economic history ends, for complete citizen fulfillment has been achieved: we have reached that region so beloved of ideological fascists, Settled Science.
Marxists call this the dialectical view of history: there is an agrarian thesis, a capitalist antithesis, and then the Great Socialist Synthesis of collectivism. No account whatsoever is taken of the glaringly obvious fact that they’re assuming Homo sapiens can cast off his factory-fitted obsession with power, stockpiling and competition for survival.
Another teensy flaw with dialectical materialism is its assumption that agrarian cultivation is the starting point, despite the clearly established fact that Man the Hunter survivalist cave-painter came first. It is thus equally sound in this context to suggest that hunting is the thesis, cultivation the antithesis, and a ‘mixed economy’ of meat, veg and manufacturing-based trade represents the synthesis.
But the most striking nonsense here is the inability of Marxism to either envisage or deal with a future in which technological communications and services suddenly change all econo-commercial activity beyond any previous recognition. Like the Adam Smith beloved of all Friedmanites, Karl Marx could not have foreseen the application of the Greek prefix tele to all activities in the 21st century.
There simply is no place where hitech telecoms might conceivably fit into the Marxist construct. And that is exactly what Marxism is: a rigid set of Parsonian boxes and arrows adding up to a structural functionalist model obeying strict laws. The big problem, however, is that future events are notoriously disobedient.
Our contemporary world is divided on a bewildering number of levels and dimensions, but for me the two biggest (and most diametrically opposed) camps are the globalist (both Neoliberal and Marxist) Big Process merchants on the one hand hand, and the small, creative mutualist communitarian-cum-libertarian minorities on the other. At the time of writing, it is obvious that mutualism (although the fastest-growing company form) is massively outnumbered by State and Superstateism.
But Neoliberal Big Process is about to go horribly wrong….and in the UK, the only viable alternative is a bunch of half-baked and second-rate tramline ideologues who will, without doubt, make things even worse.
Emerging from the other side of this I suspect – and hope – will be a far more grounded and balanced economic viewpoint based neither on fantasies of growth nor Utopian collectivism, but rather on self-sufficiency.
The Establishments of Left and Right love to rubbish this idea with denigration using “siege economy”, “back into the trees” and “hippie commune claptrap” but it is none of those things. It is a return to balance and manageable scale that offers a tribal species the best chance of liberty alongside accountability.
Economic history is obviously and most emphatically not about dialectical change from one model to another: it is about the grafting on of additional economic sectors with the benefit of experience, science and technology.
The balanced economy in 2018 should have within it the means to manufacture, market, deliver, and service what it produces cost-effectively for citizens who are healthy, decently housed, properly fed, in touch, entertained and gainfully employed in private and social tasks.
That requires an economy with viable food, manufacturing, service, hitech, comms, and media alongside mutually run social weal sectors covering health, housing, education and civics.
The concepts of ‘post-capitalist’, ‘service’, ‘socialist’ and ‘neoliberal’ economies are nothing more than systemic claptrap….self-serving élite nonsense that puts human fulfillment way down the list.
The need following Crash2 will be mixed-economy mutual communiarianism brought into the future – not tired old eyes squinting to see what’s going on in the rear-view mirror. Unattainable promises and bland idealism are not going to cut it: sooner or later we will have to face up to our anthropolical reality as a tribal species: to accept the triumph, in fact, of practical radicalism over denialist ideology.
In the European context, the biggest and best-balanced economy is, by miles, that of France. It is the only one of the big boys that could pull up the drawbridge tomorrow and thrive. The most unbalanced and financial-service dependent economy is in turn that of Britain.
In the Chinese sense, we are about to live in interesting times.