I have found myself described as far left, quite often recently. I find this rather puzzling. I would not even describe myself as a socialist. Economically, I wish to see much greater worker share ownership, limitations on extreme pay differentials between management and staff, and strong regulation of casino banking with a far smaller, taxed and regulated derivatives market. I support state ownership of natural monopolies, such as rail, roads, and public utilities. I support state welfare provision and excellent state health and education services. But that is as far as it goes. I do not advocate central planning and in general prefer to keep the state out of commercial activity – which is why I support the EU so strongly in removing barriers to the mobility of all factors of production. I am not a socialist.
This blog is read by many people who have known me since university, some even earlier. I think I am right in saying that my beliefs have not changed in any fundamental way over 40 years. What I outline above was what I believed in 1976. I stand open to confirmation or correction.
Yet in 1976 I was a Liberal, and politically centre or only slightly left of centre. My views were absolutely mainstream and were voiced in mainstream media every day.
While standing still, I now find myself far left as the mainstream political spectrum rushed rightwards past me.
Is this because the Thatcherite revolution, carried on so enthusiastically by Blair and New Labour, proved wildly successful? Is it because deregulation and privatisation has brought prosperity, harmony and an inarguably better society?
No, not at all. The new right wing consensus has been a disaster. It led directly to the great crash of 2008 and the resulting austerity, which will dog us for another two decades at this rate. It led to massive, astonishing inequality of wealth and a society in which it is considered normal for top executives of an organisation to be paid 100 times more than the lowest employee. It led to hedge fund managers owning our politicians, and to Russian mafia owning our football clubs. It led to a world where Save the Children can pay its chief executive £375,000 a year of donation money yet nobody pukes. It led to collapse in manufacturing and to vast areas of blight and hopelessness, to a generation who will never afford a house while buy to let multi millionaires abound, to QE transferring yet more money straight to financial institutions.
The great right wing experiment has been a disaster for the country. Outwith the economic field, we have seen a massive attack on civil liberties, the growth of the 100% surveillance state, and end of respect for international law including the invasion of Iraq and the programme of torture and extraordinary rendition.
Yet although the disastrous failure of Britain’s forty year far right experiment is evident all around us, public opinion continued to move inexorably ever more to the right. It did so because the sheer propaganda power of the corporate media, led by the BBC, pushed it in that direction and had the power to do so. Dissident voices were excluded from the airwaves. The positions I agree with and which I heard regularly on the airwaves forty years ago no longer get airtime, even where they retain majority public support, such as nationalisation of the railways.
Some of my views have become more radical, and they relate to the need to break up the institutions of the right wing state. I believed in Scottish independence forty years ago, but it is much more central to my thinking now. Forty years ago I would have been shocked by the idea that the BBC should be utterly destroyed, but now that seems to me the only sensible approach.
I am not without hope. There is no doubt that the Sanders/SNP/Corbyn phenomenon represents a reaction to the dreadful inequality of society and all the evils which I have described. But I would also argue that this reaction has only been practical because of the new maturity of social media, weakening the grip of corporate media on the popular field of debate and the popular imagination.
Perhaps then, without moving, I became revolutionary just in time.