Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Sunday, October 03, 2010

John Lanchester on the Cuts to Come

The coalition – which, in practice, in this instance, means the Tory party – is attempting to create what political wonks call an "inflection point". They want to make a fundamental change of direction in British politics. There have been two of these in the last decades, the first of them Thatcher's election in 1979 and the second Tony Blair's in 1997. The election of 2010 wasn't an inflection point, not least because it didn't produce a majority government. So the Tories put into effect what was obviously a plan to create their own inflection point through Osborne's emergency budget. The idea, I think, is to change the British political ecology. Public sector workers, in particular, are supposed to be scared into malleability. The idea is that instead of being grumpy that some of them have lost their jobs, everybody who is still in work will instead be grateful, relieved and suitably cowed. It will be a change in direction for the British state, and will give a clear way forward for the Conservative party as it returns to its traditional identity as the party of the smaller state. "If they can't do it now," a Tory friend told me, "when can they do it?" In other words, there will never be a more opportune moment for the party to set out its stall to cut spending. Hence the tearing-off-the-arm eagerness to seize the opportunity.

So the politics of this makes a depressing kind of sense, from a rightwing perspective. What is much less clear is whether the economics of the cutting makes as much sense... A strongly negative trend in British life over the last 30 years, and one that unfortunately continued during Labour's tenure in office, was the increasingly sharp division between winners and losers. That tendency is set to become even more marked. We are heading back to the bitterly divided politics of the late 1970s and early 1980s, except with our newly sky-rocketed levels of inequality. So 20 October is going to be a hugely important day for Britain. I have in the past predicted anger, as the consequences of the recession for public spending become clear; I think the process of expressing that anger has barely begun.

Full article here - see also Richard Seymour on the problems ahead for David Cameron. Fortunately, the anger and resistance has already begun - as Labour MP John McDonnell put it at the Right to Work demonstration outside Tory conference, "I’ve got a warning for the Tories — if you come for us, we will come for you, with protests, strikes, occupations, civil disobedience and direct action. This is no time to stand on the sidelines."

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