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Saturday, May 22, 2010

A very left-wing coup? Quite the opposite

This article of mine appears in the Morning Star.

Pop the champagne corks! Light those Havanas! Put that old LP of the Alexandrov Red Army Choir on the turntable! For the years of struggle against the dark, dehumanising forces of international capitalism dear reader, have come to an end. Britain has just experienced a left-wing coup!

There we were thinking that David Cameron, the pro-war, pro-privatisation, old Etonian multimillionaire leader of the Conservative Party was a reactionary right-wing figure, when all the time he was really the 21st century British reincarnation of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov!

So goes the story according to the neocon newspaper columnist and ubiquitous tv and radio pundit Melanie Phillips, who penned an article for the Daily Mail last week entitled "David Cameron's Left Wing Coup." Phillips's line- that the new Tory-dominated British government is "left-wing" has been echoed by other conservative commentators. According to Peter Hitchens "there is nothing but Left-wing government ahead of us, stretching out till the crack of doom." While the Daily Telegraph's Simon Heffer has accused David Cameron of mouthing the "'slogans of social democracy," having earlier accused the new Chancellor of the Exchequer and Bullingdon Boy George Osborne of acting like "some member of the Socialist Workers Party."

The view that the new government is left-wing is not only held by those on the right, but by many on the liberal left too, who maintain that measures such as the scrapping of the planned third runway at Heathrow, the binning of the ID cards scheme and the announcement of a referendum on electoral reform show that we're now led by some really groovy progressives.

If only it was true. Unfortunately what we experienced earlier this month in Britain was not a left-wing coup, but the opposite - an anti-democratic coup by the most reactionary force in the world- international capital.

For most of its period in office new Labour served the money men well. They carried on with the Tory policy of privatisation, allowed hedge funds, private equity firms and other financial speculators to operate freely, and fought the imperialistic wars that capital had wanted.

While the economy was booming, and their beloved warmonger Tony B Liar was at Number 10 Downing Street, opening up new markets for them from Belgrade to Baghdad, capital was happy to leave Labour in control. But with Blair's resignation and the global economic crisis, things changed. Labour, because of its links with public sector unions, was unlikely to make the drastic cuts in spending that capital urgently required.

Moreover, after 13 years of Labour government, the money men- the men who really rule Britain- knew it was time for a "regime change" to maintain the pretence that Britain was a functioning democracy. Gordon Brown, the man hailed as "The Iron Chancellor" a decade earlier, quickly became a hate figure. But despite the relentless anti-Brown campaign, the general election did not deliver the knock-out blow to the Labour leader that capital had hoped for.

Capital had wanted a majority Tory government. The markets, we were repeatedly told, did not want the "uncertainty" of a hung parliament. But having failed to achieve an outright Tory victory, the money men then pushed for the next best thing - the speedy formation of a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition to start cutting public spending without further delay.

When Brown stayed on as Prime Minister on May 7, as he was perfectly entitled to, the anti-Labour campaign went into overdrive. "In the space of five tumultuous days, Britain has gone from democracy as we know it to the brink of dictatorship," cried The Sun. The former Sun columnist Richard Littlejohn said that Gordon Brown's refusal to quit Number 10 represented "nothing less than an attempted coup."

The anti-Brown witch-hunt was reminiscent of the campaign to force the incumbent Slobodan Milosevic to step down after the first round of voting in the presidential elections in Yugoslavia in 2000. Like Brown, Milosevic was acting perfectly legally by staying in office - like Brown, there were some very powerful people who wanted him out. As in Yugoslavia in 2000, international capital got their man, and a Labour-led coalition, which "the markets" made it very clear that they did not want, was strangled at birth.

Instead it's full steam ahead for the final chapter of a project that has been planned since the late 1940s and which started in Britain in 1979, namely the destruction of the post-war mixed economy welfare state.

Those who believe the Liberal Democrats, or even David Cameron's Conservatives to be somehow "left-wing" ought to have studied the parties manifestos a little closer.
For the litmus test which tells us whether a party really is progressive, is not whether or not it supports a third runway at Heathrow, or its position on ID cards, but its stance on public ownership.

Whereas the Lib Dems supported railway renationalisation in 2005, in 2010 the policy was dropped. Today's Orange Book Lib Dems advocate further privatisation: of the state-owned bookmaker the Tote and the Royal Mail. Nick Clegg, the public school educated banker's son, who once worked for the neoliberal EU trade commissioner Leon Brittan in the 1990s, made his reactionary, anti-collectivist views clear in an interview he gave to the Spectator magazine earlier this year, when he praised Margaret Thatcher's victory over the trade unions as an "immensely important visceral battle for how Britain is governed."

If there really had been a "left-wing coup" in Britain this month, as conservative commentators claim, then the new government would not now be menacing Iran, but announcing plans to pull British troops out of Afghanistan. It would not be cutting corporation tax, but raising it - and launching a major programme of re-nationalisation. It would not be appointing bellicose neoconservative supporters of the Iraq war as Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary, but putting on trial all those who planned and propagandised for the illegal wars of the past 13 years. It would not be trying to appease the City, but clamping down on the financial spivs, profiteers and speculators who have made their vast fortunes at the expense of the majority. And instead of calling for more "competition" and for the state to "back off" as the faux-progressive Nick Clegg has done, it would be ditching neoliberal capitalism and replacing it with a humane economic system in which people always came before profits.

Don't worry Ms Phillips - I can assure you that you'll recognise a real "left-wing" government when it finally does arrive. And that day can't come soon enough.


jock mctrousers said...

Yes, the hacks are shameless. I read a piece a few days on Open Democracy by one Anthony Barnett, some sort of 'left thinker', proclaiming at tortuous length the "death of Thatcherism"; well, they've got to come up with something to write about.

Mr. Piccolo said...

I suppose some people won't be happy until we have returned, full-blown, to the workhouse, the filthy, crowded tenements, the starvation wages, and the "Satanic mills" of the days of laissez-faire capitalism.

Anonymous said...

You're right, Neil. We have reached a stage where the power of the international finance capitalists is so complete that anything - no matter how small and tokenistic - that smacks of human agency and governance will send a shiver of fear down the backs of right-wing commentators. When they say 'the markets', this transparent reification is a smokescreen for what they really mean; the profiteering gamblers who go by the euphemistic name of finance capitalists.

I'm not a Marxist, but I think he was right about a number of things, including the prediction that there will be no revolutionary change until the whole world is 'fully capitalised', i.e. controlled by finance capitalists and their need constantly to open up market niches that can ensure growth and profitable ways of absorbing surplus capital.

When the time comes that the whole global economy is governed by this unstable logic, driven forward blindly and relentlessly by the crude and irrrational desires of Keynes's 'animal spirits', a total collapse of the system is on the cards. At the moment when opportunities for investment and surplus capital absortion shrink beneath a critical point, the bulk of debt-generated fictitious capital will be retracted, and the money and livelihoods of countless ordinary people will disappear with it. Then, as they say, all hell will break loose. The left must be intellectually and politically prepared to create order out of that forthcoming chaos; the chance will come, and we must take it.

- questionnaire

Sosialisten said...

I see that the new Defense Secretary is saying that Britain is going to withdraw from Afghanistan soon. What is happening with the neocons?

Anonymous said...

Me-thinks Phillips is in the wrong profession--she ought to be a comedian, except that she is not at all funny and has no sense of humour or perspective.

Her recent book The World Turned Upside Down is awful beyond compare.

The recent book by Peter Hitchens Rage Against God is just plain pathetic. All he has done is rediscovered the consoling myths of his child-hood religion.

neil craig said...

It is undeniable that the Cameron/LudDim coalition is strongly committed to destroying most of our economy in the name of fighting catastrophic warming & to other eco-fascist regulation.

The "left" having adopted "environmentalism" & Ludditry as being in some way "left-wing" is now hoist by its own petard.

We need a political movement committedcto human progress . I am afraid Neil that i believe that low corporation taxes stimulate growth as the last 20 years of 7% growth in Ireland indicate. If that is correct raising them further would certainly not promote progress.

Michael said...

I think you're comparing chalk and cheese, Neil. Whereas the labels left and right-wing are essentially obsolete these days, even so Phillips and Hitchens and various others all use the 'left-wing' tag with reference primarily to the social liberalism of the new coalition (variously called 'progressive' politics, cultural marxism et al) whereas your focus is on the economics.

Of course, the water is still muddy - the 'social liberalism' these commentators decry is actually, in its own way, incredibly right-wing, being premised on a radically individualistic form of liberalism. Even so, they are nonetheless justified in calling it left-wing in the sense that, since the 'social revolution' anyway, it is the left that have become synonymous with this kind of politics (actively attacking the social conservatism of many of their own supporters in the process.)

On the economics point, I have sympathy for your argument - but then, there is a strange parallel between conservative commentators all saying the political landscape has become entirely left-wing (from a social perspective) and you claiming the political landscape has become largely right-wing (from an economic perspective) - and that both of these things merely confirm pre-existent orthodoxies. I think both objections are true (I have written on this here, hope you don't mind me posting the link -, and both are to be mourned - the new politics is no such thing.