Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Big Society Bull Shit and Liberal Skidmarks

One of the best letters in Socialist Worker recently was short and to the point.

'David Cameron talks about the “Big Society”, but what does that mean? For me, it means BS. If you don’t know what BS stands for, then you don’t know what Cameron is talking.'

There is probably more to the Tories Big Society agenda and idea than meets the eye, but at least as the Con-Dem cuts begin to come thick and fast (and while the cuts can't really get much 'thicker' than they already are, they are unfortunately set to come 'faster' next week), the current state of British politics begins to become clearer than ever. It is not a pretty sight. Just as Mark Twain once noted that 'it could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class, except Congress', it is without doubt that the front benches of the British Houses of Parliament will go down in history as the scene of all manner of crimes, many of them being currently committed on a daily basis.

However, the fact that it is the Liberal Democrats who are currently so fervently fronting the most vicious criminal Tory attacks waged on behalf of the richest people in the country against the very poorest is providing some grim humour amid the carnage being inflicted on Britain's social fabric. Loathe as I am as a socialist to quote a capitalist overlord on the disaster now unfolding,Alan Sugar (of 'The Apprentice' fame) probably reflects the views of many:

'One thing that's for sure, this coalition thing is an absolute joke. It's got to be sorted out. It can't last for long with these Lib Dems and all that. These two people, [Nick] Clegg and [Vince] Cable, in their heart of hearts never thought they would get into power, now it's as if [low level football club] Leyton Orient suddenly found themselves in the Champions League. Fish out of water! Unbelievable! They don't know what they are doing! I think Cable should ... he should just give it up. They should put him in a field somewhere and give him a bit of hay.'

While it is manifestly the case that the former Labour councillor turned Business Secretary for the current Tory coalition Vince Cable, despite his oddly quixotic attacks on 'capitalism', is no Marxist, there is one thing from Marx that he seems to have taken to heart. 'Politics', Marx once noted, 'is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.' That was Groucho of course - rather than Karl - but it seems to accurately sum up the current pathetic political disposition of the Liberal Democrats in power, and Cable in particular, as they embrace wholeheartedly the Tories austerity agenda and betray an ever-increasing number of their pre-election manifesto pledges in the process - above all most dramatically over tuition fees. It is true that, as Cable stated in parliament, 'The road to Westminster is covered with the skid marks of political parties changing direction', but wasn't this coalition meant to be allegedly about 'new politics' rather than 'power-for-power's sake', and all about 'honesty', 'fairness', 'transparency', accountability'? If the Liberal parliamentarians are largely 'Yellow Tories', one should also not forget the 'Red Tory' scum working with the government either, the likes of Lord John Hutton, Frank Field and Alan Milburn - all still nominally members of the Labour Party. One cannot fail but be reminded of the point the great Marxist historian CLR James once made, that Liberals and Social Democrats were 'the comedians of the modern political world'.

Yet what is also apparent is that while British politics looks set to revert at the next election back to a two-party affair between Labour and the Tories whatever Labour do between now and then, up to now the new leaders of the Labour Party have really failed to effectively hammer either the millionaire Tories or the skidmarking Liberals. This is largely because so many of them are Blairites through and through (witness Tessa Jowell's pretty abysmal performance on Question Time this week) and so can't effectively oppose say the marketisation of higher education as they were the original architects of that policy. As one Labour MP noted, the new Labour shadow cabinet 'is packed with the Blairite Tendency, several of the militant brand, and their influence is not to be under-estimated...There is not a single person in the Shadow Cabinet who could be described as a natural left-winger'.

Fortunately, a rising mood of militancy is developing in the British trade union movement, at least among the rank-and-file. Moreover, while the trade union leaders are verbally committed to organising co-ordinated resistance - in some cases they are actually now doing so - for example the NUS/UCU demonstration for education on 10 November in London promises to be huge. Such sparks and flames of resistance have to be fanned by socialists over the coming weeks in months if we are to get anything approaching the general strikes and general level of struggle of say France and Greece. Moreover, if we do not try and organise collective mass resistance to the Blue, Yellow and Red Tory scum amidst this economic crisis, and leave people to try and survive the onslaught on public services and accompanying jobs massacre in their own individual ways then a recent poll in Germany reminds us of the continuing danger of the rise of fascism on the back of racist scapegoating of immigrants and Islamophobia. A study published this week saw one in 10 Germans profess they would like a "Führer" figure to "govern Germany with a hard hand", while 35% said they considered the country to be "dangerously overrun" with foreigners. The national demonstration and carnival against racism, fascism and Islamophobia called by Unite Against Fascism and Love Music Hate Racism and backed by the TUC and the Muslim Council of Britain should also be a date in people's diaries to try and help stop similar sentiments taking hold here. Things are more unstable and uncertain in British politics right now than in my living memory at least, and there are openings emerging for socialists that provide opportunities to make our case for a new society based on people's needs rather than private profits that have not existed for a very long time, and we need to make the most of them.

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At 11:37 am, Anonymous Dominik Bjegovic said...

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