On Being Far Left 219


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.


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219 thoughts on “On Being Far Left

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  • Old Mark

    Conclusion: I invite everyone to watch the link provided and make up their own minds.

    Habba- I agree with your assessment of the Andrew Neil/Nicola Sturgeon interview. She was shakiest in defending the higher per capita public spend in Scotland; there may indeed be ‘good reasons’ for this (primarily the very low population density in the Highlands and Islands). However at the moment these Scottish peculiarities are met by the transfer of funds from Westminster; an independent Scotland would have to deal with these peculiarities from within its own resources- and if oil revenues don’t recover substantially the Scots won’t have a pot to piss in- which was essentially the point that hard arsed Glasgow Tory, A. Neil, was able to get over to any objective minded viewer of yesterday’s programme.

    Sturgeon also made a lot of Scotland having an unemployment rate that is lower than the UK average- but without pointing out that this is solely as a result of the much higher level of public sector employment north of the border, which again is a consequence of the higher per capita public spending that Scotland enjoys, courtesy of the Barnett formula, and the subsidies contingent upon the extraordinarliy low population densities that prevail over much of Scotland.

  • Republicofscotland

    “Actually people were worried about such a high deficit, measures had to be taken to bring it down, it wasn’t sustainable. Now it is down to 4.9% while Scotland’s is 9.7%.”

    ________________

    Meanwhile Fred, the Chancer of the Exchequer Gideon Osborne is facing a £18 billion pounds blackhole, yet you have the audacity to slate Holyrood which has balanced the books year after year.

    Yes it’s 9.7% you forget however that Ireland’s was 32.4% of GDP in 2010, Ireland a vibrant independent country didn’t collapse or beg to return to the UK. Ireland’s budget deficit in now lower than the UK’s.

    Scotland must stop dragging that ball and chain (Westminster) around.

  • Republicofscotland

    “When talking about principle, RoS, it would help if you spelled the word correctly”

    ________________

    Habb.

    Just what I expected, no answer from the “vigilant eye” instead petty small talk over a spelling mistake.

    Your predictably is now a forgone conclusion.

  • Old Mark

    ‘Yes it’s 9.7% you forget however that Ireland’s was 32.4% of GDP in 2010, Ireland a vibrant independent country didn’t collapse or beg to return to the UK.’

    RoS- Ireland has indeed reduced its deficit substantially- but if Scotland were to have a similarly reduced debt as a ‘vibrant independent country’ it is possible that its Health Service would resemble Ireland’s more than England’s which would mean-

    68% of the population paying for A&E visits, GP visits, and daily charges as hospital in patients

    Having waiting times for emergency treatment, minor operations, and CT scans that are, like Ireland’s, among the worst in europe.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_the_Republic_of_Ireland

    Salmond was very keen a decade ago to use Ireland as an exemplar of what Scotland could become as an independent state. For some reason however, I don’t recall his ever mentioning the provisions of Republic’s Health Act 2004 as part of that argument.

  • fred

    “Yes it’s 9.7% you forget however that Ireland’s was 32.4% of GDP in 2010, Ireland a vibrant independent country didn’t collapse or beg to return to the UK. Ireland’s budget deficit in now lower than the UK’s.”

    Yes Ireland was in a fix, fortunately the UK was in a position to loan them £3.2 billion to help them over their difficulties. A lot of countries had big deficits after the worst financial crisis in living memory.

    But that was then and now is now and now Scotland has the biggest deficit in Europe and all the Nats can do is point at other countries saying “they were worse” or, as usual, just blame everything on Westminster when they should be saying what they plan to do about it. One thing is for sure the constant uncertainty will do nothing but harm, no one will invest in Scotland’s future while the SNP are threatening more referendums till they get the result they want.

  • Republicofscotland

    “RoS- Ireland has indeed reduced its deficit substantially- but if Scotland were to have a similarly reduced debt as a ‘vibrant independent country’ it is possible that its Health Service would resemble Ireland’s more than England’s which would mean-”
    __________

    Old Mark.

    The GERS figures loudly touted by the unionist media and politicians are for one year.

    Over the last 30 years or so Scotland has contributed more than its fair share.

    The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland Report continues 33 years of strong performances by the Scottish economy. Had Scotland been an independent country, it would currently have a net cash surplus of over £50 billion and no public debt.

    http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/new-figures-confirm-that-scotland-would-have-been-8-3-billion-better-off-an-independent-country/

    Yes North sea assets are volatile but they’re still assets that Westminster won’t devolve, ask yourself why?

  • fred

    “Over the last 30 years or so Scotland has contributed more than its fair share.”

    Over the last 15 years Scotland’s deficit, including oil, has been grater than the UK deficit in all except three years. 2005/6, 2008/9 and 2011/12.

    Excluding oil Scotland has raised on average £520 a year less per person and spent £1,450 more than the rest of the UK. In those three years oil prices were high enough to more than cover it. The oil revenue is now gone.

    The Nationalist tune seems to have changed since 2014, then they were telling us how much better off we would be as an independent country, now they are saying it doesn’t matter if we are a lot worse off.

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