Monday, 9 December 2013

Gideon - a revolutionary in the closet?

As the Coalition stutters to its end, its pursuit of a balanced budget seems likely to deliver economic stagnation and social upheaval well beyond the days when Cameron, Osborne, Gove and their amoral cronies retire to count their money.  Quite apart from hoping that Iain Duncan-Smith is not allowed anywhere near a brewery given his inability to organise the proverbial, the Pre-Budget Report last week demonstrated the vacuity and half-witted foolishness of current policies.

About the only defence that can be mounted is that the Coalition is merely carrying out the bastardised neo-con dirty work that Blair, Brown and the bankers began.  Yet over the life of the government living standards will fall, there are more working people in poverty than those who would previously have been regarded as the indigent poor, there is a property bubble which Gideon is praying is not pricked before 2015, and economic growth appears to be confined to the Tory heartlands.  Investment is talked about, but is always tomorrow - and there is a generational conflict being stoked that will be unpleasant for all involved.

The Tory spin machine has been highly effective in deflecting the blame.  When the initial furore over student tuition fees was handed over to the Liberal Democrats to take the hit for, this was a wonderful sideswipe.  Nobody questioned the morality and practicality of a system that saddles people with £50,000 of debt before entering the workplace, while at the same time extending the numbers in higher education so that it is almost axiomatic that a large number of graduates will never find work suitably remunerated to even make a dent in that burden.  No-one is allowed to ask whether the target of numbers in higher education is more relevant than quality, nor whether this is effective in improving competitiveness, the quality of life and the general welfare of society.  Nobody was permitted to ask whether tuition fees and loans could be re-thought if the function and purpose of higher education was addressed.  Instead, it creates resentment, debt and expectation.

Now Gideon has indicated that quite apart from the debt burden, current new entrants to the workplace will have to work until they are 70.  With property costs high everywhere, and at a level of lunatic obscenity in London and the South East, this is in effect creating an entire underclass caused by nothing other than age and being victims of a failed economic experiment.  It is difficult to feel anything but sympathy - but the Tory narrative is that anyone not in this predicament (middle-aged, or public sector workers) should be levelled down rather than used as a model to rectify social injustice.

A frequent observation is that the Tories are Marxists, with a very determinist view of society that requires the plebs to be kept in their place through social control.  This may be Gideon's problem, in that he forgets that in creating expectations he sows the seeds of social resentment and ultimately rebellion.  Exacerbating economic and generational inequality is at the heart of the neo-con agenda, which is why the banking and financial services sector has survived in a wealthy, smug capsule while the rest of the country picks up the tab for their excess.  Everyone else is the non-deserving poor - but if a state-banked RBS can afford £500m for bonuses it is clear that the reward for being a Tory stooge is to be allowed to repeat one's own follies ad infinitum.

There is an alternative, which requires rebuilding social cohesion.  Resentment at paying taxes is natural, and exacerbated when the quality of service provided is so clearly inadequate.  The Tory press attempts to portray this as a consequence of feckless, fecund immigrants, with a leavening of Europe and the threat of the left.  Yet the lack of investment and proper planning for infrastructure is a much more widespread cause of the crumbling social fabric.  The Tories are scared that destroying the South-East bubble will annihilate their support - while trying to scupper national infrastructure projects such as HS2 because anything that is public and visionary is antipathetic to a rapacious, selfish localism.  This hypocrisy requires a coherent programme of targeted taxation, public service reform and capital projects which will increase national wealth - and hence the ability to repay debt.

Delivering a radical capitalism may take time - as anyone who dares complain that the status quo is doing nothing to promote long-term capital stability is seen as a deviant neo-Keynesian freak.  Yet there is nothing that stops responsible private enterprise working to promote social cohesion, growth and infrastructure - rather than the current cry that such things are a burden that can no longer be tolerated in the pursuit of some mythical entrepreneurial godhead.  A space exists for this to be promoted, and it will probably be necessary unless the revolution is to turn violent.

Osborne has presided over a further skewing and damaging of the economic base.  However important sound finance is, he has gone about it the wrong way.  In creating a new underclass, disempowered economically and disenfranchised politically, he is building the fabric of a revolutionary cauldron.  For any 1980s Trotskyite, he should be cheered as the antithesis to their numbskull thesis.  For those of us who can spell "dialectic" the priority must be for a constructive synthesis to emerge.

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