Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thinking outside the (post) box

When George Bush a few weeks ago said of all the things he was most proud of while President his fight against 'ideological thugs' was the thing that made him most proud, it was an intensely ideological statement that revealed Bush to be the worst kind of 'ideological thug' out there - one who pretends they have no ideology of their own - they just deal with 'reality' as they find it. New Labour famously prided themselves on their 'pragmatism' of seeking a 'Third Way' between Old Labour's ideological commitment to welfare state capitalism and the New Right's Thatcherite free market capitalist fundamentalism - which allegedly built on the strengths of both and avoided the weaknesses of both. They were 'non-ideological'. They would just do 'what worked'. They would 'think outside the box'.

And so to the decision of Business Secretary Lord Mandleson, New Labour personified, to 'part-privatise' Royal Mail. Apparently, this is not an 'Old Labour' defence of a monopoly - nor full scale Thatcherite 'privatisation' - it is 'part-privatisation' - a nice 'non ideological' compromise plan that will apparently improve the postal service.

There is only one very slight flaw with New Labour's idea. It is bollocks. As well as threatening 50,000 postworkers jobs, as Seamus Milne notes:

'Just as the free market model which spawned a spate of failed and exorbitant privatisations is imploding all over the world, the British government has seized on the idea of handing over a slice of a socially vital national institution to a predatory private competitor...The idea that, in the wake of the biggest failures and frauds in the banking and corporate sector for 70 years, handing over yet more public services and institutions to private firms is going to be a political winner is simply bizarre.'

Moreover, it reveals that New Labour for all their pretence are in reality as ideologically thuggish as they always were - as committed to the corporate takeover of Britain on behalf of their friends in big business as ever - regardless of all the evidence of how disastrous privatisation has been wherever it is tried. The idea that what one needs when one wants to post a letter is a 'choice' of about three or four different post boxs in a row - all owned by different companies competing with each other for you to send your letter through them - is the ultimate in lunacy - but is the logical endpoint of New Labour's way of thinking. What one wants when one posts a letter is simply for it to arrive safely and in reasonable time at the other end. And the existing system delivers that service fine. As one letter writer in today's Guardian notes,

Once again an attempt is being made to privatise the Post Office. Yet, as we are reminded at this time of year, the Post Office works perfectly well. If there is a shortage of funds, maybe some of the sums used to prop up people who have been markedly less good at providing a public service in recent years - the banks - could be used.

Now such an idea really would be 'thinking outside the box'.

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At 2:56 pm, Blogger Roobin said...

"The idea that what one needs when one wants to post a letter is a 'choice' of about three or four different post boxs in a row..."

3 or 4 different types of stamps. 3 or 4 different types of franking machine (until one company gets hold of the franking machine business and forces all commercial mail through their channels). Sounds, uh... shit.

At 11:24 am, Anonymous Michael Rosen said...

Sad, sad news. Adrian Mitchell has died. The greatest.


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