There are various ways of looking at the world and coming up with pithy slogans to summarise what is going on. I am increasingly of the opinion that the Big State and Big Business are like a pair of policemen. The problem is that too many people on the so-called ‘Left’ think the Big State is the Good Cop and Big Business the Bad Cop. Too many on the ‘Right’ take the opposite view- Big Business is the Good Cop and the Big State is the Bad Cop. Too many people in the political ‘Centre’ tend to see both Big Government and Big Business as Good Cops, although both are prone to the occasional ‘excessive’ acts which cause ‘quiet concern’…
These thoughts came to mind on reading the thoughts of David Stockwell , who tried to control the Federal Budget in the early years of the Reagan Administration until the importance of ‘Military Keynesianism’, justified by the ‘Soviet Threat’, to Reagan’s Big Business backers overcame the concerns about debt professed by free marketeers like Stockwell. If Wall Street is ‘a ward’ of the Federal Government, as Stockwell maintains, why should anyone on the ‘Right’ prefer Wall Street to the Government? Similarly, why should anyone on the ‘Left’ prefer the Federal Government (currently teeming with Goldman Sachs alumni) to Wall Street? Surely, at best, we have a ‘Good Cop/Bad Cop’ scenario, the goodness and badness of each ‘Cop’ is purely in the eye of the ideological beholder.
Over this side of the water, Airstrip One’s state-backed and taxpayer-guaranteed banks are in profit again. Peter Wilby comments:
Is there a word to describe the state we find ourselves in? It isn’t exactly capitalism, as the government is now part-owner of Lloyds and RBS – which seems to give it no powers whatever – and underwriter to other banks, while small businesses are virtually at a standstill because they can’t get bank credit. Nor do we have socialism or even social democracy, though many of us thought these would return after market liberalism was discredited.
Perhaps the word is feudalism. Medieval peasants received protection from their lords in return for a fixed proportion of their produce. That’s roughly the relationship we now have with financial institutions. They provide pensions, insurance, mortgages and so on – providing protection against, for example, accidents or poverty in old age – and they cream off a “tax”, estimated by some analysts at 25 per cent, from all transactions. Governments are largely powerless, as were medieval monarchs against feudal barons.
While it is Happy Days again for Big Finance, the middle classes are getting crushed by those above them. This is happening both in the USA and over here. It would be good to think this will all end in economic and political disaster for those who are currently (re)lording over the rest of us- perhaps it will.
Closer to home, getting in by just 74 votes at the General Election seems to have concentrated the mind of Hampstead and Kilburn MP Glenda Jackson. Unless something dramatic happens (if only!), it looks like a straight Lab-Con contest here comes the next General Election. I doubt whether anyone here would take a ‘Only Lib Dems Can Win Here!’ flyer seriously next time around. In terms of the opinion polls, the Lib Dems are in trouble, although a real internal bust-up is only likely if there should be a ‘No’ vote in the referendum on the Alternative Vote scheduled for May next year. If the Lib Dems cannot achieve the goal of electoral reform (even in the feeble form of AV- which is NOT Proportional Representation) the question of what they are for will be increasingly asked of them.
Talking of opinion polls, the latest evidence does not suggest Call Me Dave’s ‘Big Society’ idea has caught the public imagination. Larry Elliott suggests co-operatives and mutualism could be a way forward towards a Big Society. However, although all three main parties make noises in support of co-ops and mutuals, they only back new enterprises to be co-ops or mutuals. They never suggest replacing the current owners or property relations inside existing enterprises. The idea of workers owning their own existing enterprises and the management and boards of existing companies being answerable to the people who work there, not to some outside body or bodies, is too much. As a good idea for revitalising the Left though…
I almost choked on my lunch a couple of days back when in the back pages of The Guardian’s G2 section I read ‘To be religiously illiterate is foolish.’ I then saw it was Tony Blair plugging his Faith Foundation. Well, the money-grabbing war-mongering fraud has a book to promote, don’t you know, which is already being plugged bigtime in the US, where I think a lot of Neo-Con Know-Nothings probably think he’s Margaret Thatcher’s son.
For those of you into NuLab memoirs, it is called The Journey, which might be a nod to his Messiah Complex. However, I do not think it is a reference to his post-Prime Ministerial globe-trotting.
I wonder how often Blair’s autobiography will mention his Sedgefield constituency and the Labour Club in Trimdon where he used to have regular photo-ops holding a pint when foreign dignitaries were visiting. It is now closed and up for sale- a metaphor for what TB did to the Labour Party and its supporters? As John Harris argues, only when Labour confronts the legacy of Blairism will it be able to move forward.
I think this was the RCP’s ‘Vote Conservative But Build The Fighting Socialist Alternative’ moment. Although it was no more daft than the SWP’s mid-90s slogan: ‘Why Won’t Blair Fight The Tories?’ Because he is one, you daft…?
Way back in the 1980s I used to occasionally see in the back pages of The Guardian an advert for a ‘Preparing for Power’ conference in London, illiustrated by a soldier falling after being shot. The meetings were organised by the Revolutionary Communist Party, which as I got older and more politically aware, realised on the whole put the ‘Arse’ into ‘RCP’. Having said that, I did subscribe in the early ’90s to their glossy monthly magazine Living Marxism (which should have renamed itself Loaded Marxism: ‘For Trots Who Should Know Better’) before I got bored with their mindless cheerleading of the Serbian side in the Bosnian War, support for whale hunting (logic being: the Japanese hunt whales, so you must be a racist to oppose whale hunting. What about Iceland and Norway though? However, putting hype before experience tended to be the LM way) and its general posture of being controversial for its own sake. I think its condoning of Imperial Japanese war atrocities in World War Two led to my final parting of ways with them (its automatically pro-Japanese stance on many issues made me wonder if the whole RCP/LM caper was funded by somebody- or some body- in Tokyo, but there’s no evidence….). Anyway, the RCP is no more. However, many of its former members (inmates?) are still out there, as Jenny Turner discusses.
However, as it is the height of summer I won’t finish off with politics. That will come and get us all again, whether we like it or not, pretty soon. To be honest, you will find a lot more interesting stuff at the new breed of literary event than the average political meeting!