neoliberalism

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“A Worldwide Mutual Pact”​

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/07/2020 - 6:00am in

Kiara Barrow and Rebecca Panovka, the editors of The Drift, sat down for a Zoom interview with political scientist Wendy...

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Coronavirus logic – or not?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/07/2020 - 5:00pm in

With Coronavirus outbreaks in meat factories in Anglesey and in Kirklees Council area (aka Huddersfield) there is much wondering about why food packing should be so badly hit. I would have thought this was obvious; every food processing plant has a form of air conditioning – for the obvious reason of preventing outside infection –... Read more

American Dream

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/07/2020 - 4:53pm in

We don’t know if the present protests in the United States will be over in days or weeks, or whether they are a first salvo in a build-up of anger or intentional agitation over months or longer, or whether the escalation, if there is any, will come from President Trump himself via a militarised police response carried forward as fuel to far-right reaction and a state of emergency. We don’t know whether predictions of revolt, civil war, collapse of the institutions or the break-up of the United States will come to pass.  

We can say, however, that what has taken place in the United States in the last week of May and the first weeks of June 2020 is as profound a sign as we can get that liberal democracy itself is in question. It is being practically critiqued in US streets by protestors, looters and the forces of armed reaction. From right and left commentators there is consensus on this point as well, if on nothing else. This is a perfect storm of crises in interlocking systems that open out for all the world to see the guts of the beast that otherwise innocently calls itself liberal and democratic. It points to a profound crisis of legitimacy, not of one political agent or party, but of a system. Unlike other moments of political crisis, the challenge today to the received form of polity and governance is coming from both (radicalised) sides of the political divide.

In attempts to subvert the meaning and cast doubt on the causes of protest arising from the death of George Floyd, Trump and right-wing commentators have blamed nefarious forces and the political misdirection of youth. But this is so clearly a dissembling, self-serving gesture, underlined by Trump’s spectacular turn as bible-clutching prophet outside St John’s Episcopal Church in Washington. Whatever the involvement of groupings such as the left-wing Antifa, the protests are so general, and so determined, that the administration is either clutching at straws in this typification or preparing Americans for more violent tactics on its part, and justification for them.

It certainly does seem that something is new in the present circumstances. Unlike protests and violent outpourings of grief and anger over other black deaths in recent times, there is a scale, doggedness and some other level of intentionality about these protests. Anger, distress, disbelief are all prompts to protest, and there is a sense that people this time will protest come what may—it’s time, after so many other deaths, and so little action on changing police attitudes or those of other authorities. We are reminded poignantly over and over again in the testimonies of black Americans, and black Australians, of the everyday pain and sense of degradation that racism, casual and structural, inflicts. We can utter the words ‘structural racism’, but in that this means not simply changing attitudes but digging into whole institutional complexes of assumption, hierarchies, rules, policies and practices we know that the struggle is ongoing. Yet, as other commentators, and young black leaders themselves, have indicated, there is a more profound reorientation of perspective that now frames the conflict from their side. The battle can’t any longer be over attitudes; liberal ‘rights’ have not been sufficient to counter structural racism; ‘equality’ and fairness may be fine goals, but they can’t encompass a claim to full recognition of black Americans and the deep history of their suffering. For this generation of critical young people, black and white, the critique of racism, one might say, ‘goes all the way down’.

Thus, if anger, distress and determination are the emotional frame of this situation, then that ‘other level of intentionality’ can be associated with a new kind of critique of racism. It is radical in its insights, and wide in how it has percolated out, via new frames of understanding. Especially among critical young people, racism has ceased to be an issue of only seeking restitution or acceptance, with liberal-democratic institutions seen to offer the hope of dignity and equal treatment. Today’s conflict and critique appear as a cultural moment—for many of the young at least, it is a conflict of the framing stories that have founded nations and systems, and have operated as originating justifications of whole ways of life. Dispossession and slavery are not aberrations to be overcome in the American liberal-democratic system but rather in particular ways are constitutive of the American nation as such, both its ‘idea’ and the practices that have embedded racial difference in everyday life in all its particular instances. This critique from the ‘Left’ will no doubt be a focus of Trump’s advisers and security agencies, and it is already well present in right-wing commentary on the ‘culture wars’, as it has also been called in Australia.

Of course, even if this political crisis can be read as amounting to a cultural moment—when people start to tell different stories and experience themselves in new terms—this is not to say that what we are witnessing is primarily a battle of ideas or ideologies, as the notion ‘culture wars’ suggests. That phrase has the effect of reducing serious differences of interpretation and notions of value to battering rams. It is a cheap descriptor and rallying cry rather than a framework that might direct us to examining the structures that carry racism in their institutional bloodstream. It also sets those frameworks up in such a one-level disputational mode that examination of the relative arguments is difficult. Indeed, this itself ideological framing of the trouble tends to obscure both deep-set historical forces shaping discontent and the more recent divisions and contradictions that neoliberal capitalism specifically has set in motion.

Of course, what portends a broadly ‘cultural moment’ is not ideas as such but a conjuncture of actual lived conditions that have become overdetermined; in other words, overlapping conditions, forces and experiences that create a febrile situation open to new possibilities. In this light it is no simple coincidence that George Floyd’s death produced the reaction it did in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. As others have noted, COVID has proved a testing ground of existing social conditions and cultural structures. Even as particular lockdown restrictions may have contributed to protest (and looting), offering some sort of release, it is not because some general ‘pressure’ or pent-up rage, as the old sociologists might have put it, had to find a valve. Far more specifically than that, the consequences of the virus, and of policies related to it, have re-enacted those disparities between black and white Americans that have both a long history and a more recent one: both capitalism’s intertwined relationship to liberal democracy as an eighteenth-century philosophical outlook and liberal democracy’s recent embodiment in neoliberal forms. Existing racism and COVID have ramified against each other to produce a density of affect, and multiple effects.

One glaring example, also evident in the United Kingdom, is of course the neoliberal state’s deep institutional culture of a lack of care, writ large in its healthcare systems. Disproportionately dependent on people of colour as nurses and carers, the United States, and the United Kingdom, have seen a widely disproportionate number of black nurses and carers dying of the virus, as well as a widely disproportionate number of poor people of colour generally, both off the back of a complete lack of capacity or preparedness in the system—and this in two of the wealthiest nations on earth. That Trump and UK prime minister Boris Johnson have attempted to simply media-manage this away is testament to the success of the forty-year rise of the neoliberal understanding of the state, which delegitimised state responsibility for the social, devolving it either to the private sector, now running multimillion-dollar shiny new caring industries, or to the re-imagined, now radically ‘freed’ individual. Healthcare is presently the most dramatic illustration of this in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the former the longstanding centrality of ‘liberty’ in the American imagination was muddled and engineered into a popular revolt against ‘Obamacare’, a modest attempt to roll back privatised healthcare. More dollars are spent in the United States than anywhere else in the world on health provision, through its profit-hungry private health-insurance system, for the worst health outcomes in the Western world. In the United Kingdom the story of the dismantling of the postwar National Health Service by stealth ever since Margaret Thatcher is just an astounding illustration of neoliberal certainty, and rapacious entitlement. With hindsight, of course neither system could ever have met the challenge that COVID-19 would present or the racial consequences that could only flow from there. Neoliberal government vacated that space some time ago; it does not count human life in quite the way many still expect governments and states to do.

The commentary from the Right is curious in this context. Paul Kelly and Greg Sheridan at Murdoch’s Australian take up the issue from somewhat different points of view but present themselves as liberal democrats defending that political framework as the only one that gives black Americans the chance of redress and equality. While they are sympathetic to the personal tragedies experienced, and can even see black deaths as racially inflected in some sense, these are understood as unintended consequences in a context actually governed by aspirations to a higher ethical end. The American ethos, Enlightenment values, the individualising of persons, the rugged possibilities for advancement of individuals in principle mean that ‘America is anti-racist’, as Sheridan put it. They do not look upon the material setting in which black deaths have occurred to find the contours of either the deep history of American racism, which has persistently, structurally shaped black experience, or the specific aggravations of racialised state practices that have taken on new or highly exaggerated forms more recently. As mentioned elsewhere, neither capitalism nor neoliberalism are noted as framing considerations in recent articles by these journalists. They speak of liberal democracy as if it has an ethereal or purely spiritual quality that has uplifted the human in all of us, and could do so eternally if only we could commit to its guiding light. For Kelly, it is the only framework that can channel the expressions of the disparate interests of plural society while retaining a commitment to the government of the whole; there is no consideration of the practical break-up of the social whole by neoliberal capitalist development, which has eaten up the social-cultural underpinnings of communal life and individual identity. There is no sense that the fragmentation they observe and decry in the new political formations is a product of the system they defend.

Nowhere is this lack of insight more obvious in such positions than in their incapacity to see black incarceration as anything more than excess on the part of state authorities, or worse, the result of behaviours of disadvantage, this latter an apparently sympathetic humanist response to the plight of black people. Upwards of a million black Americans were incarcerated, in one form or another, in 2017. One black child in fifteen had a parent in jail. A whole carceral complex is in operation, in which street policing and arrest for petty crimes—or just the suspicion of such, as in George Floyd’s case—and identity checks and casual harassment are just the tip and feeders of the American gulag. These commentators hold that the civil rights movement of the 1960s is proof of the American dream: that marginal groups can come in from the cold, be recognised as human beings, and exercise their rights just like white people. For black activists the civil rights movement is a moment in a history of persecution and struggle. Far from that struggle establishing full rights to black Americans or raising up their communities, and despite such ‘successes’ as the creation of a black middle class (black Americans occupy positions of authority in key institutions such as the academy and the military), effective segregation in American cities is rife, and poverty and precarious life define the conditions of so many black communities. As activist-theorists have for a long time pointed out, this is a kind of ‘antithesis’ at the heart of America; it is the end-point institutional embodiment of an oppression, not merely an absence of rights, which could be argued for, or the consequence of disadvantage, which might be reversed with material support for individuals. Far from the civil rights movement being a beacon here, some write of the incarceration of the past forty years as a strategic backlash against the expression of black civil rights. The persistence and the scale of policing and incarceration, and the dedication of the system and its operatives in maintaining it illustrate a larger view of the light and dark of the American system that is in necessary relation to liberal democracy, and its economic counterpart, liberal-democratic capitalism. 

There should be no surprise then that critical young people and others have taken to the streets. There is so little else that has proved effective. There is both a continuous history and an intensification of oppression. There have been many black deaths, and a growing counter movement in Black Lives Matter. Neoliberalism is reaching its apotheosis: after ten years of austerity following the Global Financial Crisis, and the running down of essential services, except policing, something like the 80/20 society—in which 80 per cent of people are redundant—is coming into being. Not just precarity but destitution threatens under conditions of COVID, and especially in the United States it threatens people of colour. It is not surprising that many find an answer in something like a view of ‘constitutive racism’: that liberal democracy is founded in—could not have taken shape except through—a structurally necessary racism.

Kelly is right that this kind of framework foretells the break-up of liberal democracy—that it is a disintegrative force in that sense.It may also not be capable of or seek to imagine any other kind of unifying outlook, or any social ‘whole’. It may be that this framework, which Kelly associates with identity politics, may not be good at stabilising the means of connection and condensed meaning that any kind of social whole, of any complexity, requires. Kelly’s concerns do at least tend to suggest that identity politics may be part of the rise of the radicalised Right as well, which similarly challenges elements of the origin story of America and sets itself up in violent opposition to ‘liberals’ and ‘democrats’. But this kind of defence of liberal democracy once again sees social emergences merely as ideologies. White poverty exists, white disadvantage is real; these constituencies have been blasted by neoliberal globalisation too, even if they misrecognise much of their troubles via racist compensations and rantings about liberty that hold as essential the right not just to bear arms but to use them in civic spaces.

That Trump stands for something other than neoliberalism is clear. Some have said that his rise is precisely the eclipse of neoliberalism in a final movement facilitated by it towards the crudest form of corporate capitalism. Others comment that in his case this takes the form of a mafioso style of clan-family oligarchy dedicated to the protection of its own privilege and that of supine ‘clients’. He will re-entertain national economic development over global trade to put ‘America first’ in some sectors, but that won’t mean a reanimation of elements of a welfare state. Further, the militarisation of policing, now well advanced with war-on-terror hardware and Israeli instruction on containment of civil unrest, suggests appalling possibilities for the invasive supervision and violent control of those who make up the throwaway 80 per cent, in which black Americans will be disproportionately represented. At the most general level, the present context suggests the further break-up of liberal-democratic ‘unity’ and the further attenuation of the old meanings and constituencies of Left and Right. The contrasting, but in some senses complementary, positions of those critiquing liberal democracy as essentially racist and those pinning American identity to whiteness and pioneer individualism point to a basic conjuncture in which the social has receded and founding stories are up for grabs.

Lobster: Integrity Initiative Working to Privatise NHS

Remember the Integrity Initiative? That was the subsidiary of the Institute for Statecraft that was found to be a private enterprise propaganda outfit working with the cyberwarfare section of the SAS. It was set up after former New Labour PM Gordon Brown read a piece about the IRD’s activities during the Cold War and thought it was a good idea. IRD was the branch of the British secret services that was supposed to counter Soviet propaganda. It did this, but also branched out into smearing Labour MPs like the late Tony Benn as Communist agents and IRA sympathizers. The Integrity Initiative was caught doing the same, spreading lies about Jeremy Corbyn and a host of European politicos, officials and senior military staff because it and its network of hacks decided they were too close to Putin.

Robin Ramsay has more to say about the II in his ‘View from the Bridge’ column in the recent edition of Lobster, issue 80. He makes the point that superficially the II would be acceptable if all it did was counter Russian propaganda. He argues that few on the left seem to accept that the country really is a kleptocracy that murders its opponents at home and abroad, and reminds his readers that one of the watchwords of the old left was ‘Neither Washington nor Moscow’. This is right, but history and the career of the II itself has shown to date that British counterpropaganda goes well beyond this into operations that seriously compromise democratic politics at home, and frequently overthrow it abroad. Like the coup where British intelligence worked with the CIA to overthrow Iran’s last democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadeq.

But II isn’t just working to smear decent, respectable left-wing politicos like Corbyn. It’s now attacking one of the fundamental modern British institutions: the NHS. Among the hacks recruited by the II is the American journo, Anne Applebaum, who has written for the Economist and the Spectator, amongst other rags. But the II also includes a subgroup on NHS reform, which has nothing to do with Russian propaganda. Ramsay instead argues that its purpose is instead to counter opponents of NHS reform. In other words, it’s been set up to promote NHS privatisation. Which means it has a neoliberal agenda.

See his section ‘Ah yes, the USA as moral leader’ at

Click to access lob80-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

Given the extreme right-wing politics of British counterpropaganda operations, this is almost certainly right.

Which means that at least part of the British secret state is lying to us to support the Tories’ and New Labour privatisation of the NHS.

 

Book on Slavery Around the World Up To the Present

Jeremy Black, Slavery: A New Global History (London: Constable & Robinson 2011).

One of the aspects of the contemporary debate over slavery is that, with some exceptions, it is very largely centred on western, transatlantic slavery. This is largely because the issue of slavery has been a part of the controversy over the status of Blacks in western society and the campaigns for improving their conditions and combating anti-Black racism since the abolitionist movement arose in the 18th and 19th centuries. But it ignores the crucial fact that slavery is a global phenomenon which was certainly not confined to the transatlantic slavery of the European empires. One of the arguments marshaled by the slaveowners was that slavery had existed since antiquity. Both the Romans and the ancient Greeks had possessed slaves, as had ancient Egypt. It still existed in Black Africa, the Turkish empire, the Arab states and India. Hence slavery, the slaveowners argued, was a necessary part of human civilisation, and was impossible to abolish. It was ‘philanthropic’ and ‘visionary’ to demand it.

This was partly the reason why, after the British had abolished slavery in their own empire, they moved to attack it around the world. This meant not only freeing the slaves in the West Indies and their South American colonies, but also at Cape Colony in South Africa, Sri Lanka, India, Hong Kong and further east in the new territories of Malaya, Fiji and the Pacific Islands, and Australia.  Most histories of slavery focus on transatlantic slavery. However, Jeremy Black’s book discusses it as existed around the world.

The book’s blurb concentrates on European slavery in the Americas. It runs

The story of slavery – from the ancient world to the present day

In this panoramic history, leading historian Jeremy Black explores slavery from its origins – the uprising of Spartacus and the founding of the plantations in the Indies – to its contemporary manifestations as human trafficking and bonded labour.

Black reveals how slavery served to consolidate empires and shape New World societies such as America and Brazil, and the way in which slave trading across the Atlantic changed the Western world. He assesses the controversial truth behind the complicity of Africans within the trade, which continued until the long, hard fight for abolition in the nineteenth century. Black gives voice to both the campaigners who fought for an end to slavery, and the slaves who spoke of their misery.

In this comprehensive and thoughtful account of the history of slavery, the role of slavery in the modern world is examined and Black shows that it is still widespread today in many countries.

But Black begins his introduction with the case of Hadijatou Mani, a Niger woman, who was sold into slavery at the age of 12 and subsequently beaten, raped and prosecuted for bigamy because she dared to marry a man other than her master. She successfully brought her case before the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, which ruled in her favour and fined her country. She stated that she had brought the case in order to protect her children. Slavery is officially outlawed in Niger, but the local customary courts support the custom by which the children of slaves become the property of their masters.

Black then describes how slavery was truly a global phenomenon, and the treatment of slaves at Cape Coast in Ghana resembles the treatment of Christian slaves taken by the Barbary pirates. And its history extends from the ancient world to the Nazi genocide of the Jews. He writes

The mournful, underground dungeons at Cape Coast Castle and other bases on the low, watery coastline of West Africa where African slaves were held from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries prior to shipment to the New World are potent memory of the vile cruelty of slavery, and notably of the approximately 12.5 million Africans forced into this trade and transported on about 35,000 transatlantic voyages, yet these dungeons are not alone and should not crowd out other landscapes where slavery was carried on and the slave trade conducted. Nicholas de Nicolay’s mid-sixteenth-century account of slave dealers parading their captives naked to show that they had no physical defects, and so that they could be examined as if they were horses, with particular reference to their teeth and feet, could have referred to the world of Atlantic slavery, but actually was written about Tripoli in modern Libya, where large numbers of Christians captured from Malta and Sicily by the Barbary pirates of North Africa were sold.

Indeed, the landscapes of slavery span the world, and range from the Central Asian city of Khiva, where the bustle of the slave market can still be visualized in the narrow streets, to Venice, a major entrepot for the slave trade of medieval Europe albeit not one noted by modern tourists. The range is also from Malacca in modern Malaysia, an important centre for the slave trade around the Indian Ocean, especially under the Muslim sultans but also, from 1511, under, first their Portuguese and, then, their Dutch successors, to the few remains of the murderous system of labout that was part of the Nazis’ genocidal treatment of the Jews. The variety of slavery in the past and across history stretched from the galleys of imperial Rome to slave craftsmen in Central Asian cities, such as Bukhara, and from the mines of the New World to those working in spice plantations in east Africa. Public and private, governmental and free enterprise, slavery was a means of labour and form of control. (p.2).

The book has the following chapters

  1. Pre-1500
  2. The Age of Conquest, 1500-1600
  3. The Spread of Capitalist Slavery, 1600-1700
  4. Slavery before Abolitionism, 1700-1780
  5. Revolution, Abolitionism and the Contrasting Fortunes of the Slave Trade and Slavery, 1780-1850
  6. The End of Slavery, 1830-1930?
  7. A Troubled Present, 1930-2011
  8. Legacies and Conclusions.

I feel very strongly that the global dimension of slavery and the slave trade needs to be taught, and people should be aware that it isn’t simply something that White Europeans forced on to Black Africans and other indigenous peoples. British imperialism was wrong, but the British did act to end slavery, at least officially, both within our empire and across the world. And odiously slavery is returning. After Blair’s, Sarkozy’s and Obama’s bombing of Libya, the Islamist regime in part of the country has allowed slave markets selling Black Africans to be reopened. Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, posted a video on YouTube discussing the appearance of yet more slave markets in Uganda. He pointedly asked why none of the ‘SJWs’ protesting against the racism and the historical injustice of slavery weren’t protesting about that. Benjamin is a member of the extreme right, though I would not like to accuse him personally of racism and the question is a good one. As far as I know, there are no marches of anti-racist activists loudly demanding an end to racism in countries like Uganda, Niger, Libya and elsewhere. Back in the ’90s the persistence and growth of slavery was a real, pressing issue and described in books like Disposable People. But that was over twenty years ago and times have moved on.

But without an awareness of global history of slavery and existence today, there is a danger that the current preoccupation with western transatlantic slavery will just create a simplistic ‘White man bad’ view. That White Europeans are uniquely evil, while other cultures are somehow more virtuous and noble in another version of the myth of the ‘noble savage’.

And it may make genuine anti-racists blind to its existence today, an existence strengthened and no doubt increasing through neoliberalism and the miseries inflicted by globalisation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To rephrase Mahatma Gandhi ‘The future will depend on what we do today.’

Statue of seven children using a lever to move the world“Together for Peace and Justice” by Xavier de Fraissinette, Parc de la Tête-d’Or, Lyon. Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

Just a brief look at the news headlines in the last few weeks should be enough to set the alarm bells ringing. We are watching as the nation suffers a train crash of epic proportions.

The Institute for Employment Studies reported in May that the number of people claiming benefits principally because of being unemployed had risen by 860,000 in the month to 9th April to just over 2 million, and that not since February 1947, the year of the big snow, had unemployment figures risen so steeply. It went on to say that that that figure was now likely to be in the region of 3 million, the highest since the 1980s, and that it will take years, not months, to repair the damage.

According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 600,000 jobs have already disappeared and many face redundancy over the next few months as economic uncertainty continues and employers begin to make plans to reduce their workforce as the furlough scheme is phased out later this summer. The ONS also noted that that there had been a record fall in job vacancies between March and May and hinted at worse to come. Jonathan Athow, from the ONS, commented that ‘the slowdown in the economy is now visibly hitting the labour market’

The consequences of Covid-19 on the economy, and let’s not forget the impact of 10 years of cuts to public spending and welfare entitlements, are affecting every aspect of our lives.  Thousands of children have been plunged into poverty and UK food banks are facing record demand with more than 100,000 carers forced to use a food bank in the UK lockdown. Two-thirds of families on universal credit have been pushed into debt, having had to borrow money including using payday loans or credit cards to keep their heads above the water. Put bluntly, that means people struggling to put food on the table, money in the electric meter or pay their rent, not to mention the impact on the mental health of parents trying to provide the basics or educate their children at home for three months without adequate access to the internet or computers.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in partnership with Save The Children, are shining a light on the experiences of families and children in poverty; calling on the government to ensure that families are supported, not just during this lockdown period but also beyond it, to prevent increasing numbers of children being pulled into poverty. It points out that too many children are going without, due to income losses and the pressure that the lockdown has put on already overstretched budgets.

Whilst one must commend those who have performed extraordinary acts of public service during this pandemic, those who have raised money for the NHS and charities and this week like Mark Rashford who through a steadfast public campaign shamed the government into continuing its vouchers for free school meals during the summer holidays, we now urgently need a frank national conversation about where we go from here.  Not just about the sort of society we want to live in now or in the future, but whether we even want to protect our children’s children from the devastating effects of climate change; the threat of which is hanging like a tsunami over our heads while we queue outside Primark or Nike Town!

We are a nation that has been divided by a toxic ideology which has, until recently, ripped to shreds any sense of collective responsibility. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and return to the normal many are hankering for. Too much is at stake.

The pandemic has revealed the shocking state of the Social Care system which is in a state of collapse, an NHS battered by 10 years of cuts to its spending with reductions in staffing, beds and facilities, a social security system which has removed the support pillars and left people in dire poverty and children hungry, living sometimes in temporary accommodation with no sense of security.

The greatest achievements of the post-war world are being dismantled or outsourced to profit and are being replaced by the so-called big society which ironically is also collapsing due to cuts government cuts. As previously reported by GIMMS, Covid-19 has left one in ten charities facing bankruptcy this year and many struggling to provide services in an economic environment which has its roots in austerity.

Instead of state involvement in the provision of the fundamental structures that form the basis of a healthy economy and society which benefits everyone (even if those structures are not perfect), we are being prepared through constant propaganda and messaging to accept a reset. One in which the state continues to pour public money into private profit but at the same time claims there is no money for publicly paid for and managed services and an adequately funded social security system.

Our society is being impoverished, not just financially but in terms of its public and social infrastructure, culturally and the safety net which protects people when through no fault of their own the economy tanks. All on the basis of claimed unaffordability. The monetary largesse of these last few months is already in question and we face a return to more cuts to public spending.

Just this week it was reported that Leeds Council is considering closing its museums and libraries as it can no longer afford to pay for them. This is not just a localised problem; across the country libraries and museums have already closed or rely on volunteers to staff them. The pandemic is revealing the brutal cost of previous cuts to government spending that have left local and regional councils, particularly in the north and south-west, impoverished and with insufficient infrastructure to even deal with the consequences of Covid-19.

Aside from the valuable input to GDP (which ministers seem to conveniently forget), our cultural life is under threat as our museums and libraries face more closures as local councils try to balance their books. Our national and local theatres, art galleries, orchestras and all those things we value in terms of human enrichment and education face if not oblivion, then severe retrenchment.

While public money finds its way easily into private profit at the blink of an eye to provide public services in the name of the lie of market efficiency, our society is being prepared to accept a reset in which charities, public donation and volunteering, not to mention the philanthropy of the Victorian poor law boards, decide who gets what.

Is that the sort of society we really want to live in?

To recognise the alternatives, we have to understand how an alternative vision can be paid for, as that is the perennial question always asked by the public and politicians alike. If we fail to do so the future looks pretty bleak for us all now and for future generations who will be paying not the financial cost but the very real human cost.

We need to start with a basic understanding of how the UK government as the currency issuer spends. It is regrettable that across the piece left and right-wing economists, along with politicians and institutions are still stuck in the household budget narrative of how governments spend. For the right, the constraints lie in a scarcity of money (which they use to justify their political agenda) and on the left the answer is getting the rich to pay through their taxes or borrowing at low rates of interest to fund our public services, pay for public infrastructure or fund a green new deal.

Only this week the ONS focused its report on the public finances on the through-the-roof borrowing figures and, shock horror, it is apparently £173.2bn higher than it was a year ago at £1.95 trillion and the UK’s debt-to-GDP ratio has pushed above 100%. Such focus is designed to put fear into the hearts of people who don’t understand the working of the economy and the public finances and it is likely to enable the government to justify further austerity at some point in the future.

Indeed, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak it has been reported is preparing to scrap the triple-lock on the state pension on the basis that the already high cost of the Covid-19 pandemic could make it unaffordable. Officials have claimed that a temporary suspension would be unavoidable if the government is not to be faced with paying a massive bill next year.  The Pensions Policy Institute has already warned, quite rightly, that such a move would have serious implications for already existing and future pensioner poverty and the amount spent on other means-tested benefits such as housing benefit, caring credits and disability premiums. It would also impact on low earners who would have to put in an extra £540 a year to avoid poverty in retirement. How would punishing people even further help the economy or indeed serve its already beleaguered citizens?

Torsten Bell from the IFS in an article in the Guardian claimed that a survey of economists had proved that they were not keen on cuts or more austerity to reduce the deficit, but favoured tax rises instead. He further claimed that economists were turning into a bunch of radical lefties these days. However, whilst their support for austerity has dwindled perhaps, they still see the public accounts as a household budget whereby taxing and borrowing (at low rates of interest) form the basis for government spending. That cannot be considered radical in any shape or form and unless they can get to grips with how a modern monetary system actually works and reject the notion that spending now will create financial burdens on future generations, then sadly we will see more of the same orthodoxy rearing its ugly head.

To put it bluntly, in an economy that is facing wipe-out and serious future economic consequences, the idea that paying more taxes to pay for government spending which will do yet more harm to the economy as it takes money out of the economy is nonsensical, especially when you know that government doesn’t need those taxes before it can spend.

We need to ditch this narrative if we are to make a better, fairer world which also puts the environment as a top priority. Indeed, at the beginning of this week, the leaders of some of Britain’s top charities wrote to the Prime Minister to demand as a priority a green recovery and urged him to use economic rescue packages to build low-carbon infrastructure and stimulate the creation of long-term green jobs.

However, if we allow that sticky question of monetary affordability to dominate the debate, any future actions will always at some point in time constrain a government’s spending decisions.

We don’t have to be economists either to understand monetary realities or challenge the current false narratives which pervade the discourse.

There are just a few things we need to know or consider:

  • The UK government is the currency issuer.
  • It neither needs to tax in order to spend, or to borrow to cover its deficit
  • Such a government whilst not being financially constrained does face real resource constraints when deciding its spending policies. These include the human beings that do the jobs and the physical resources needed to provide goods and services.
  • If the nation decides ultimately that it wants the government to take a greater role in public provision of services to serve the best interests of citizens, it will have to accept that the government will have to procure those resources and thus may have to deprive the private sector of some of those resources in order to do so.
  • A Job Guarantee is fundamental to this understanding of monetary realities. It not only provides an essential automatic stabiliser in the economy ensuring that people are not left abandoned on the unemployment scrap heap during its cyclical ups and downs and values their contribution to making a more stable society but also plays a vital role in controlling inflationary pressures.

In the coming years, with the growing threat to climate change, it will also provide an essential mechanism to implement a just transition as jobs are lost in polluting industries and we move towards a sustainable economy.

In such an environment we will have to entirely rethink and redefine what work is and what our societal values should be. We need to ensure that we can offer our young people a future with good, non-exploitative employment which pays good wages and offers decent terms and conditions within the context of creating that sustainable economy.

Let’s not leave the future in the hands of the neoliberal orthodoxy which has done so much damage, created so much poverty, inequality and societal division. We do have choices. We don’t have to accept more of the same.

 

 

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The post To rephrase Mahatma Gandhi ‘The future will depend on what we do today.’ appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Zen capitalism’s ‘McMindfulness’ makes us all poorer…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 21/06/2020 - 3:01pm in

There is a concerted effort to depoliticise misery while actively cultivating it with austerity. The more miserable we are the more we accept shit jobs, shit lives and shit futures. Haven’t had a pay rise in seven years? You’re lucky to have a job. Six month wait to get a tumour removed? Be grateful we have the “heroes” to do it in the NHS at all. The message is, the world is dying, get used to it.

Mindfulness, or Zen capitalism, privatises our pain which further alienates us and prevents us from working together for real solutions.

The post Zen capitalism’s ‘McMindfulness’ makes us all poorer… appeared first on Renegade Inc.

“Comply or Die: The myth of the Great Reset”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/06/2020 - 10:48pm in

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neoliberalism

For the past 6 years MarkGB has been writing that a systemic collapse is inevitable; that it would be brought about either by a global financial crisis, a major war, or a conscious & deliberate reset. There is nothing unique about this analysis – many others have come to the same conclusion, before and since.

The post “Comply or Die: The myth of the Great Reset” appeared first on Renegade Inc.

Reflections on Mark Fisher's Essay on "Capitalist Realism"

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/06/2020 - 1:35am in

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Fisher's book on Capitalist Realism remains a popular reference point for many would be anti-capitalists in the UK. As such, we have decided to translate this new review from our comrades in Italy, where the book has only recently been published. See also our reviews of Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work and Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future by authors from a similar milieu.

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Criminal Justice

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/06/2020 - 9:34pm in

We have all seen the peeing football fan from Essex, who had allegedly consumed 16 pints over the previous night and was, after remonstrations from his father, it seems, encouraged to offer himself up to Essex police. Of course very few public toilets are actually accessible. So how on earth do you cope after 16... Read more

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