Who’d Have Thought It?

By | March 2, 2016

Well, who would have thought it?

So much ‘reform’ crammed into post-1970s financial capitalism and rationalized by neoliberal ideology! The institutions and conventions of postwar welfare capitalism – familiar to a declining proportion of the UK population – have been sabotaged by a fraction of the Occupy movement’s 1%, call them what you will: governing oligarchy, plutocracy or ‘capital monopolists’. Was welfare capitalism more ‘successful’ in terms of economic growth? – yes; were its institutions and conventions more just and inclusive? – yes; … As Chomsky reminds us, suck the resources out of any public institution or service, be it the railways, the NHS, social services or whatever, encourage and fuel public dissatisfaction, then privatize it and hand it to your mates so they can accumulate further capital.

‘We can’t go back to welfare capitalism.’ Well, the rhetoric of return certainly doesn’t work; but it shouldn’t be beyond those of us comprising the heterogeneous opposition to Tory neoliberal rentier greed to construct an alternative narrative, one an exploited, oppressed and understandably disaffected youth can make their own.

Who would have thought that:

We would allow our governments to sign up to any war of their choice?

We would continue to overlook British arms sales to brutal autocratic regimes, even some our government transports UK armed forces to fight?

We would look the other way while our governments bombed the Middle East into chaos?

We would permit refugee children fleeing warzones and abandoned to be trafficked: ‘nothing to do with us’?

We would permit the likes of a Murdoch-dominated media?

We must sign up to austerity measures, though parasitic and non-productive ‘wealth creators’ like ‘banksters’ are excused?

We would refuse to regulate the financial sector even after 2008-9?

We would allow our prime minister and chancellor to benefit personally from the tax havens they tell us are ‘morally repugnant’ and that they abhor?

We would be told that the rich should be taxed less so they pay more tax?

We ‘little people’ must work longer, for less, and dedicate more of what we earn to pay for our pensions?

We would be asked to accept that those who have not inherited capital, or are unlucky, vulnerable, disabled or otherwise find life a struggle, are ‘skivers’ who – reinventing the poor law – must be compelled to work via benefit cuts?

We would tolerate the likes of zero-hours contracts?

We would hear that some people, bed-ridden or terminally ill and in despair, would take their lives for want of understanding, compassion or support?

We would stand by while young people can anticipate neither a home of their own nor one they can afford to rent?

We would see an explosion in homelessness, mental health crises and the introduction of foodbanks?

We would allow our teachers, nurses, social workers, carers and so very many others to be priced out of accommodation in the cities they work in?

We must allow the selling off of genuinely affordable public housing so private landlords, many Tory MPs who passed the requisite laws, could cash in?

We should sign up to the selling off of the NHS and the replacement of one of the very best healthcare systems in the world by a failed American-style system that abandons the disadvantaged?

We would sleepwalk into a two-tier health service?

We would not notice that if don’t visit a GP for five years, we could be de-registered because we obviously don’t need one?

We would be asked to fund a Trident missile system – at a cost equivalent to funding the NHS for a year – that is outmoded, not a deterrent, should never be deployed, and is in any case controlled from the USA?

We must be subjected to continuing and total surveillance on the off chance that we might be terrorists or, worse, critics, dissenters or skivers?

We should accept that life-changing ‘reforms’ be approved without parliamentary debate?

We must submit to the destruction of our local, LEA-regulated system of schooling in favour of a plethora of divisive, faith-based, free-standing and poorly regulated academies, while the leading public schools train our elites and masters?

As parents we would be lucky to get our children into our local school of choice?

We would be inclined to remain in the undemocratic and capitalist-club that is the EU out of fear of our own ‘worse’ national government’s policies?

We would accommodate a politically-motivated assault on trade unions, a de-registering of voters, a recalculation of constituency boundaries and a re-definition of political party funding to guarantee continuing Tory rule?

It would cost us 50p to visit a loo at a London rail terminus?

I could of course go on, and I apologize to those whose suffering I have unintentionally passed by. It should be clear too that Blair’s iniquitous New Labour regime is part and parcel of financial capitalism. With a £24m property portfolio and currently worth an estimated £70m, this lying architect of the immoral, illegal and truly disasterous Iraq War, I hold Blair’s occupation of No 10 more scandalous than Thatcher’s. He and his like disgust me. What kind of – ‘electable’, his acolytes insist, but to what purpose? – leader of the labour movement was he? His neo-Thatcherism paved the way not only for the miserable Cameron-Clegg coalition but for the appalling post-2015 Tory self-indulgence.

This was not a blog I intended to write today: I had an attack of passion. But it raises several issues in my mind. The first is its inadequacy: I shall think of many additional items on my homeward commute! The second is that it is depressingly and blindingly obvious to many of us that ‘the emperor has no clothes’, that too many of we ‘little people’ are signing up to our own (class-based) exploitation and (state or command-based) oppression. A third query is addressed to sociologists like me. I have advocated a form of ‘action sociology’, arguing that that as a community we must pursue our project beyond professional and even public sociology to encompass an action sociology that enters civil society and the public sphere to fight for knowledge against ideology (see companion blogs). It’s not enough to get another grant in or publish in esoteric high-impact journals nobody outside the discipline consults.

The emperor actually, really, is naked. Justice and solidarity should and can trump the self-serving rule of the less-than-1%, most of them born to capital ownership and the power it purchases.

The emperor is starkers, and quite remarkably ugly.


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