The New Left Project is running a series of essays on fighting back against government cuts, which started on Tuesday with The Axeman's Jazz, a extended discussion written by Richard Seymour, who edits the Lenin's Tomb blog and is a member of the Socialist Workers' Party. Seymour will eventually be given the chance to reply to other contributors and I have been asked to participate, largely because of a short article I contributed to NLP back in May.
The first response to Richard Seymour's essay came from Sunny Hundall of the website Liberal Conspiracy who, as a centre left Lib-Dem voter turned Labour supporter, essentially argues for an anti-cuts version of Tony Blair's infamous Big Tent - one that seems to share the same desire to sideline trade unions and the working class in order to placate the fickle sympathies of the corporate media. It is not a view shared in the contribution from Tom Denning of The Commune, who is deeply sceptical about a 'united front' with Labour MPs anywhere near its forefront. Denning argues instead for as movement built from below and focused on action through local anti-cuts committees. Meanwhile Andrew Fisher of the LRC makes the case that within any broad-based anti-cuts movement, it is vital that the left argues for "a socialist solution that transcends capitalism, rather than humanises it or regulates it, that seeks to defeat the Con-Dem coalition not do a deal with it". These are both arguments I broadly agree with.
My own thoughts appear today - the series will continue with others including Derek Wall from the Green Party.
Resisting Cameron's Big Lie
Had he lived long enough to witness it, I’m sure neo-liberalism’s godfather Milton Friedman would have been proud of Cameron and Clegg’s coalition government, which, along with its rightwing media allies, has proven that in order to sell a lie, you just need to make it big enough and repeat it often enough.
It seems remarkable that only two years have passed since the public raged against the profligacy of the bankers and struggled to comprehend the staggering sums of money so hastily handed over to bail out the banks’ recklessness and greed. Back then, with the part-nationalisation of well-known high street banking names and the demands for a crackdown on the lawlessness of the Square Mile, it seemed almost possible to believe that neo-liberalism’s most precious tenets – its opposition to government intervention, its insistence on the virtue of deregulation and the dynamism of the private sector – could never recover credibility. But now look where we are: on the verge of the most ferocious programme of public sector cuts in living memory, cuts blamed almost entirely on the previous government’s ‘wasteful’ intervention and interference, a programme that threatens to transform and reengineer our society whilst we are still reeling from the shock.
In his article, The Axeman’s Jazz, Richard Seymour has set out at length – at some considerable length – many fundamental truths about the mess we are in. I can’t fault his analysis that a combination of stimulus spending, rising unemployment in a shrinking private sector hit hard by the recession and huge subsidies to the financial sector are the real reasons for the rise in levels of public debt, rather than allegedly extravagant government indulgences to the public sector and its employees. I agree, too, that pretending otherwise is a fairy story driven far more by ideology than by evidence.
Richard is also correct in assessing the difficulties that Labour faces. Having itself become a party that embraced free market liberalism, attacks on public sector workers and on welfare recipients, complete with a commitment at May’s election for its own massive cuts programme, the party does indeed now find that it has “few resources with which to criticise the Con-Lib cuts project” – a problem that will persist no matter who wins its protracted leadership battle.
Where Richard’s article is less convincing, however, is in its advice about how the coalition’s Big Lie can best be resisted.